5 ways to stop employees from hiding in meetings

We all have those days. The days that start and end with meetings. Days when you are double or triple booked and have “working lunches.” The days you can’t wait to be done, and when they are, you wonder how you didn’t get anything accomplished.

Meetings can be an incredibly effective way to get your team all focused and rowing the same direction. They can be a great way to fix issues concerning your business. But they also can devolve into a complete waste of time.

Next time you have a meeting, do this. Look around the table at the employees and make a general guess as to what the average hourly wage of the group is. Now take that wage and multiply it by the number of people in the room. Before you know it, that meeting just cost your company anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand if it is a big one that takes a long time.

If you let them, employees will fill their weeks with meetings. They will spend the day in the office because of a few scattered meetings rather than be out on the road working with clients. They will drag meetings that should be 15 minutes into full hour-long discussions. Excuses for tasks not being completed will be that a meeting “popped up” or “ran over.” Employees mean well, but they can have a difficult time distinguishing the difference between getting work done and spending too much time over planning in meetings.

So here are five strategies to make sure you aren’t spending your entire day wasting away in meetings and your employees are maximizing their time too.

  1. Keep a meeting to exactly the time you have allotted for it. Too often those 20-minute meetings creep into 45–50 minutes. If you set up a meeting for 30 minutes, mention to the group at 25 minutes that there are only 5 minutes left and start wrapping things up.
  2. When you send out meeting invitations, be sure to include exactly what the point of the meeting is and the itinerary. If you expect people to show up to the meeting with data, progress or materials, let them know in advance. Meetings speed up exponentially when everyone is prepared.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say no. If you get a request for a meeting, ask what it is about. If you simply need to provide some numbers and data, then really there is no reason for you to attend. Let the meeting organizer know you will have the materials ready for the group ahead of time and are available for questions, but will not be present in the meeting.
  4. Slim down the group’s size. If you have a group that is meeting regularly on some long-term projects, cut out the people who don’t have actionable tasks. At the end of each meeting, assign tasks for the next one. If there are people in the room who don’t have tasks, then chances are you don’t need them on the project, and they can go back to doing their regular jobs.
  5. Establish no-meeting days. In the most radical of options, establish a company policy that does not allow employee-only meetings for one day a week. Tell employees that there will no longer be meetings on a given day of the week. There can be exceptions, such as if it is necessary to meet with outside clients or partners that can only meet on a specific day. The point is to eliminate meetings that consist of your employees sitting around and hashing something out for at least one day a week. This provides you a day in which you know you have no in-house meetings and will be able to crunch out a bunch of projects that you are having a difficult time completing.

Meetings can be an incredibly effective way to get your team all focused and rowing in the same direction. They can be a great way to fix issues concerning your business. But they also can devolve into a complete waste of time. By employing some of these tactics, you can cut down on your meeting time and increase your productivity.