Meeting Time Has Skyrocketed 250% Since 2020 — Here's How That's Changed Us

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April 21, 2024 at 2:5AM UTC

Microsoft Teams found that their users saw a 252% increase in their weekly meeting time since February 2020. 

It’s not surprising that people are spending more time in meetings; when you’re not physically working next to someone, you may need to schedule time to meet with them — even to ask a quick question. When you’re not around your team, you might feel like you’re in a silo without a weekly or daily check-in.

But just because remote work often requires more official meetings than office work, doesn’t mean that every meeting that’s happening is worthwhile or productive. Two years since remote work became a standard part of the modern workforce, meetings still dominate our lives — and they’re costing companies money, valuable productivity time and negatively impacting their culture.

According to Time’s HR Identity Crisis study, 41% of HR leaders believe meeting culture — “defined by aspects like their frequency, length, and focus — is a top challenge in the workplace, and this has worsened significantly as the pandemic progressed.”

It’s challenging not just for the meeting leaders, but also for those who are required to attend meeting after meeting. Zoom fatigue is real — and it hits women harder than men. Women are more likely to be concerned and distracted by seeing their own video on calls than men, and it can lead to exhaustion and even burnout.

It’s not that meetings can’t be valuable; it’s that when we’ve grown accustomed to having meetings dominate our work schedules, it can be hard to understand which ones are actually productive and what makes a meeting a good one. Here’s how to reexamine your meetings and make sure they’re worth your team’s time.

Rethink the purpose of your meetings

Once we have meetings in place, it’s difficult to make a change to a cadence and purpose we’re used to. But if meetings are a pain point for you and your team, it’s worth intervening and really rethinking all of your meetings to determine what should stay, go or change.

The stoplight method can be helpful to get a quick gut check on the purpose your meeting is currently serving. Content marketer Jeff Steen wrote in Inc. about how he uses the three stoplight colors — green, yellow and red — to ask other meeting attendees how they feel about the meeting. “Green” means the meeting is valuable, and they want to be included in future meetings like this; “yellow” means parts of the meeting were valuable, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a meeting, or that the attendee isn’t sure about the meeting’s value; “red” means the meeting was not valuable at all. 

The purpose of the stoplight, Steen writes, isn’t to start a large debate about the meeting’s value, but rather get a quick judgement about if the meeting is working, and who it’s working for. After you’ve gotten the assessment from key stakeholders, you can take the appropriate next steps.

Rethink the logistics of your meetings 

It’s not just about rethinking the “why” of your meetings, but the “what.” A meeting might be valuable, but it might be more valuable depending on its logistics — when it’s scheduled, how long it’s scheduled for and who’s involved. A 15-minute 1:1 meeting at 9 a.m. is drastically different than an hour-long team meeting at 3 p.m where people can turn their cameras off.

First, consider how your meeting fits into the meeting attendees’ workflows. A 1:1 check-in might not be as valuable in the beginning of the week if there’s not any new progress on relevant projects until mid-week. The same goes for meeting attendees. You don’t want to waste someone’s time by looping them in too early or too late into a project or bringing them into a regular meeting that’s only adjacently related to them that takes time away from their workflow. 

Next, consider the “when” of the meeting. What time of day is this meeting happening? And for how long? The “when” should take not only deadlines into consideration, but also when the meeting attendees work best — for example, is a brainstorming meeting better scheduled for first thing in the morning, or at 4:30 p.m.? How long do you really need for the meeting? What needs to be done together, and what next steps can happen asynchronously?

Rethink whether it needs to be a meeting at all

Meetings are valuable — if they’re done with the right purpose, with the right people and at the right time. But not everything needs to be a meeting, especially in a workforce that has shown how flexibility and asynchronous working can actually improve productivity and employee wellbeing. Not all meetings need to be wiped from your calendar, but don’t be afraid to let go of a meeting if it isn’t serving a true purpose for you or your team. Instead of a meeting, maybe opt for a weekly email or Slack update. 

Remote and hybrid work have given us so many ways to communicate with one another. Let’s use these tools to our advantage and give ourselves some time back in the process.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for determining whether a meeting is worthwhile? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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