Team Meetings
7 min read

Meeting Costs: The Financial & Human Impact of Running Ineffective Meetings

January 18, 2022

Cost of Meetings

Meetings are the lifeblood of any organization. From team meetings to one-to-ones, they’re the fuel that keeps your company going. 

They keep teams aligned, they help improve psychological safety in the workplace, they enable the collective sharing of information, and they aid decision making.

The problem is, of the 62 monthly meetings that the average employee attends, 32% are a complete waste of time.  

Which of course is incredibly detrimental to your organization, not just in terms of lost productivity, but also in monetary terms too. 

So what makes a meeting ineffective? 

Well, in short, it comes down to meeting organization. In other words, how well the meeting is planned, executed, and followed up on.

And because meetings tend to be the responsibility of leaders, if your managers don’t display the behaviors that drive high performing teams, or if they lack the training and know-how to be able to arrange, conduct, and follow up on meetings, it could be costing you thousands, even millions of dollars every year.

So, what can you do about this? 

In this article, we lay out the true financial cost of ineffective meetings, as well as outline the human cost of unproductive meetings, before exploring 6 causes of ineffective meetings and how they can be remedied. 

Meeting Costs

How much does it cost to run a meeting?

Ineffective meetings are one of the most expensive overheads within your organization. Not just in monetary terms (of which they are prohibitively expensive), but also in terms of the human cost: the lost productivity, the reduction in output, the impact on employee engagement, the resultant employee burnout, and even employee turnover. 

But before we get into that, let’s run some numbers first so you get an idea of how much meetings are costing you. 

The financial impact of meetings

While you can find out the full financial impact of running a meeting in your organization by using this meeting cost calculator, we've also provided an example below based on what this might look like in the average company. 

This breakdown is specifically based on research from Atlassian, which shows that the majority of employees attend 62 meetings each month. We've also based these numbers on the average length of the meeting being an hour. 

So, what does this look like in monetary terms?

Well, if your average employee earns an annual salary of $60,000 (which works out at approximately $31.25 per hour), and they're attending 62 meetings per month, each one an average of 60 minutes in length, it's costing you a total of $1,937.50 per employee, every month.

Now let’s say you have 100 employees. That's $193,750 worth of time, every month, spent in meetings.

Which is $2,325,000 per year. 

Now while meetings can be incredibly valuable and worth every cent of that, it can't be ignored that on average, 32% of meetings are unproductive. 

Meaning it’s costing you $620 each month for your average employee to sit in ineffective meetings. That's $620 worth of their time that is being wasted month after month.

When you have 100 employees, that’s $62,000. Which amounts to $744,000 per year.

The impact of meetings on productivity, employee engagement, and burnout

All meetings are supposed to accomplish something, yet we’ve all been in a meeting that was a total waste of everyone’s time. 

But aside from monetary value, what is the human cost of bad meetings in business? 

Ultimately, ineffective meetings lead to lower employee engagement. Which then has a knock on effect on morale amongst employees.

Long term, this can then feed workplace conflict, affect innovation, lead to employee burnout, and even result in increased employee turnover. 

All of which will negatively impact customers and your bottom line. 

So, why are so many meetings a waste of time? And what can you do to prevent meetings being unproductive?

Six causes of ineffective meetings (and solutions to prevent them)

Cause one: Lack of a meeting structure

Let's start with the fact that 63% of meetings are held without a pre-planned agenda. Now while it may be a conscious decision not to have a meeting structure in place, these types of meetings often lack both a goal and a leader.

And if the meeting has neither of those, then is there really a point to the meeting?

It also can't be ignored that meetings without any form of structure can run the risk of overrunning, particularly when you have a lot of attendees, which again contributes to wasted time.

So, what's the solution?

An easy fix to a structureless meeting is to task HR with creating a series of meeting agenda templates based on the types of meetings your organization routinely holds. 

By working from a template, the meeting attendees will know what to expect from the meeting, and the leader will be able to ensure that all goals are accomplished. 

When filling out the meeting agenda, managers need to consider several points: 

  • Does the meeting really need to happen? Or can the information be shared another way, for example through forms of asynchronous communication such as email or Slack?
  • What topics need to be discussed?
  • Who will be leading the meeting?
  • How long does the meeting need to be?
  • Who needs to attend the meeting?
  • Will the meeting be remote or in person?
  • Who will take notes? 
  • Have you created an agenda?
  • Has everyone had the chance to contribute to the agenda beforehand?
  • Does everyone know what the purpose of the meeting is so that they attend suitably prepared to make decisions?
Cause two: Lack of ground rules

If you don’t have ground rules for meetings in place, how will your employees know what is expected of them during meetings? 

Of course there’s a certain level of professionalism you can expect from them, but we’re talking about the key behaviors you want them to display, or refrain from doing. 

This is why it's so important to establish meeting norms. In fact, it's also important that you're not only ensuring that your managers au fait with them, but that all employees are aware of them and understand them too. Better still, these ground rules should be established collectively as a team. 

Examples of team meeting ground rules include:

  • Determining the type of meeting beforehand. For example, are you problem solving, decision making or sharing information? Don’t overlap meeting types. And make sure everyone knows which type of meeting they’re attending so they can prepare for it. 
  • Giving the meeting your full attention. Employees need to not just be physically present in meetings, but mentally present too. 
  • No interruptions. Everyone has a right to voice their opinion without being talked over or interrupted. Interruptions not only leave team members feeling disrespected, but also undervalued, which results in poor psychological safety.
  • Whether or not the camera is switched on. When the team is operating remotely, meetings are essential to connect team members. However, while it might seem like you’re all together by keeping cameras on and having a ‘face to face’ meeting, research does show that turning the camera off can actually result in a more productive meeting, because attendees aren’t distracted by the image of themselves on screen, nor worried that they’re being ‘watched’.
Cause three: Distractions

Nothing highlights just how ineffective a meeting is more than a room full of people texting, typing, talking, taking calls, leaving, or entering. They’re distracted and not focused on the meeting, and therefore the meeting is of course going to be unproductive. 

One way Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, avoids this is by limiting the number of participants in a meeting. He also claimed to ban the use of PowerPoint during meetings, replacing it instead with a memo compiled from the narrative of why the meeting needs to happen.

Before the meeting begins, all attendees then read the memo, so that everyone starts the meeting on the same footing, understanding what is about to be discussed. 

Cause four: Lack of preparation

In many instances, both managers (or team leads) and team members fail to prepare for a meeting ahead of time, which of course contributes to the lack of productivity. 

One of the best ways this can be avoided is by co-creating an agenda, as this not only helps ensure that the meeting serves its purpose, but that all parties have the opportunity to share their ideas.

That said, it's also important that managers aren't spending too much time preparing. 

Fortunately, with a tool such as Saberr, you can ensure your teams are striking the right balance. In fact, we aim to reduce meeting preparation time in two ways. Firstly, we provide managers with a wide variety of meeting agenda templates to choose from. Then, we send a notification prompting all attendees to contribute to the agenda, meaning the manager doesn't have to. 

In addition to this, we also equip managers with the tools and knowledge to lead better, more effective team meetings.

Cause five: An inefficient meeting cadence

Meetings are great for making decisions, building relationships, and bolstering creativity. 

The problem is, too many meetings are costly and can take employees away from their actual work. Too few meetings, however, can cause the team to fall out of alignment.

So, what's the solution?

Striking the right meeting cadence. In fact, this is essential for ensuring that the work gets done and the team stays aligned. 

While each team meeting will serve a different purpose, there are a few that we believe are essential for teams. These include:

  • One-to-one meetings
Ideally, you should be aiming for weekly one-to-one meetings between managers and their team members.
  • Team kick off meetings (or sprint planning meetings)

Teams should get together every other week to review the previous sprint cycle, and kick off the next one by defining what needs to be achieved, and how they plan to achieve it. These types of meetings not only help keep teams agile, but they also help improve both productivity and accountability.

  • Team retrospectives

Teams should meet on a monthly basis to reflect on what is and isn't working. In fact, these team retrospectives offer the perfect opportunity to address any specific problems, share learnings, and identify actions based on this insight.

Cause six: Lack of follow through

When a meeting just ends and there’s no follow up, it results in inactivity and stifles progress.

After every meeting, participants should therefore receive a summary of what was discussed, along with any agreed actions.

The Saberr platform makes it very easy for all team members to recall information, to share meeting notes, and to access action items from the previous meetings they've attended. 

Final thoughts

Meetings may be the fuel that keeps organizations sparking, but ineffective meetings not only stifle innovation, they also cost businesses millions every year. Even worse, they lead to decreased employee engagement, reduced creativity, and a lack of team cohesion.  

Saberr can help tackle the challenge organizations are experiencing with teams having too many ineffective meetings, and the impact it has on employee productivity and engagement. 

In fact, by implementing a tool like Saberr, your organization stands to significantly reduce the time employees spend in meetings, not to mention the time managers spend preparing for them, which then drives down the subsequent cost of meetings, without compromising on quality. Don't believe us? Get your teams to try this free meeting optimization exercise we've put together. 

While improving the impact of meetings is a tough metric to measure, the effects it has further downstream includes better communication, improved team alignment, better decision making, better problem solving, and increased innovation.  

To find out more about how Saberr can help your team have more effective meetings, take a look at this, or book in for a chat with our team.

14 types of team meetings

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Two male team members having a meeting