Most of us are guilty of either hosting or attending meaningless meetings in the office. Evidence is growing that meetings – whether in person or on videocall – are a killer of workplace productivity and morale. Shopify, the Canadian e-tailer, recently highlighted the perils of this phenomenon: “Earlier, the company axed recurring meetings of three or more people and exhorted employees to keep Wednesdays meeting-free. Now, the Ottawa-based e-tailer has integrated a meeting-cost calculator into its calendar app.

When an employee tries to schedule a gathering of three or more people, a little red price tag pops up, estimating the cost based on the size of the meeting, its duration and the average salary of the employees invited. “A typical 30-minute endeavor with three employees can run from $700 up to $1,600” depending on role and seniority, report my Bloomberg colleagues Mia Gindis and Matthew Boyle, and adding an executive can send the cost soaring over $2,000.”

Experts are now clarifying which meetings are good and which are bad uses of time. According to this Bloomberg piece, Prof Ben Laker of Henley Business School says “the highest and best uses of meetings are to assign work to the team; clarify policies or goals with employees; and discuss with employees which projects are going well and which need to change. Those types of conversations are well worth the cost. But too many meetings simply focus on disseminating information (that could have been an email); providing status updates (that’s what Slack is for); or providing a deadline to turn in work….

The problem people have with meetings isn’t always their number — they’re an important part of one’s job — but having them scattered throughout the day in a way that makes a focus on deep work impossible. Ideally, meetings could be clumped together so that everyone had at least a few hours a day when they could concentrate uninterrupted. Even so, there are benefits to reducing the overall number of meetings. In a survey of 76 companies, Laker and his colleagues found that cutting the number of meetings improved employee productivity, accountability and job satisfaction and reduced workers’ sense of being micromanaged. He says that it is often more practical to designate certain mornings or afternoons as meeting-free, rather than entire days…”

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