4 Strategies for Reducing Time in Business Meetings

You know the feeling. You arrive at work on Monday morning refreshed from a relaxing weekend only to groan as you check your calendar. Before you can even finish your coffee, you’re sitting in a meeting. It’s enough to make you want to hide behind your desk to avoid business meetings.

Most employees attend about 62 business meetings a month and consider half of those to be a waste of their time, according to a “You Waste a Lot of Time at Work” infographic produced by IT company Atlassian. Unnecessary meetings reportedly cost U.S. businesses $37 billion in employee time.

Business meetings can cost organizations valuable hours of productivity that employees could spend building relationships with customers, reaching prospective customers, developing new products or strategizing future innovation.

For more insights into business innovation, read Nintex CEO John Burton’s blog post “Why – and How – to Embrace Business Innovation.”

Research from Bain & Company, a management consulting company, found that companies and executives spend up to 15% of an organization’s collective time in meetings, and that percentage has been increasing since 2008. And senior executives on average devote more than two days each week to meetings with three or more coworkers.

“If time really was money, and accounted for in the same way, many companies would be running huge deficits,” said Greg Caimi, Bain partner and co-author of the time management study. “Organizations need to audit their time expenditures and put in place tough controls in order to stop the hemorrhaging of an increasingly valuable asset.”

1.  Go Literal with your Stand-Up Meetings

Some companies are ditching chairs. In Forbes magazine, Neal Taparia, co-CEO of Imagine Easy Solutions, talks about running his meetings standing up.

In Taparia’s article, “Kick the Chair: How Standing Cut Our Meeting Times by 25%,” he describes how the average meeting length decreased from 48 minutes to 36 minutes. Co-workers told him that standing made them feel more alert and more focused on being productive.

2.  Schedule Shorter Meetings

If you schedule a meeting for an hour, don’t feel like you must fill the entire hour if you can achieve the meeting’s objectives sooner and get everyone out sooner. Better yet, put a shorter block of time on people’s calendars. Schedule 45 minutes, a half-hour or even 15 minutes.

According to a Harvard Business Review post, shorter meetings can result in more engaged attendees who aren’t distracted by daydreaming, doing other work or sleeping – things that 91 percent, 73 percent and 39 percent, respectively, of average meeting-goers have done in meetings.

When things happen at a fast pace, people are more attentive because they “know that a single distracted moment will leave them behind,” according to the article.

3.  Shake Things Up

All those business meetings add up so examine how your organization approaches meetings. A Harvard Business Review study found that one weekly executive meeting at one large company consumed 300,000 employee hours each year, says Jayson DeMers in the Inc. article “How Much Time Do Your Employees Waste at Work Each Day”.

Changing your meeting approach can have a big impact, whether that means starting and ending meetings on time, not waiting for stragglers to start the meeting or only inviting people who absolutely must be there.

4.  Skip the Meetings Altogether

In “5 Ways to Avoid Useless Meeting Syndrome,” Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes says that one of the best ways to avoid unproductive meetings is to not have them at all.

One way to greatly decrease the number of meetings at your organization? Automate your processes. Manual processes typically mean a lot of emails and face-to-face business meetings to follow up on team member tasks and to obtain approvals.

Automating your processes with the Nintex workflow platform helps you avoid meetings because processes automatically flow from person to person and from place to place. You can manage content, allocate resources, request approvals and send notifications, among many other tasks, via automated processes instead of via in-person meetings or conference calls.

With Nintex Workflow, you can build approvals into your automated processes. LazyApproval, for instance, enables executives and other people who sign off on tasks and projects to respond with a “Yes” or “No” via email.

“Instead of having meetings about meetings and keeping track of minutes, all approvers’ comments are easily tracked with a date and time stamp within the workflow itself,” says Nintex Technical Evangelist Palesa Sikwane.

Nintex Workflow’s integration with DocuSign electronic signatures also helps diminish the need to obtain in-person approvals. Instead of needing a wet signature, which requires an in-person meeting, you can get digital signatures, no meeting required. Watch the video for details.

The launch of Nintex Hawkeye™ workflow analytics and upcoming launch of the Nintex Workflow Cloud™ could also result in fewer meetings. Instead of needing to meet to learn how processes are performing, people can get answers via easy-to-create, easy-to-read dashboards via  Nintex Hawkeye.

You can save time, too, with Nintex Workflow Cloud, which quickly and easily automates processes across multiple enterprise systems, says Nintex Senior Product Manager Dan Barker.

“As a result, you don’t have to spend as much meeting time figuring out how to do it,” Dan says. “And because Nintex Workflow Cloud enables line of business users, they can come to meetings with potential solutions as opposed to requesting them from IT.  This results in less meeting time and a quicker turnaround.”

 

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