Meetings provide necessary time for teams to align, collaborate, and make decisions. However, excessive and ineffective meetings can significantly drain productivity and resources at a company. While the indirect costs of lost time are difficult to quantify, it is possible to estimate the direct financial costs of meetings in order to optimize your business’s meeting culture.
The Costs of Too Many Meetings
Studies show that most professionals feel time spent in meetings could be reduced by half without impacting outcomes. Yet ineffective meeting habits persist, with costs including:
- Lost productivity – Employees sitting in unnecessary meetings cannot complete critical work. This strains productivity and delays progress on key objectives.
- Wasted resources – Holding meetings requires real financial resources including staff time, facilities, equipment, and sometimes food and travel. Bad meetings waste these precious resources.
- Office space – With meetings comes the need for physical space to meet. Unnecessary meetings may lead to paying for excess office space. This isn’t the case for all businesses with many adapting since Covid but there are still some industries that prefer face to face communication.
- Software costs – Remote meetings require paid subscriptions for video chat software and collaboration tools. More meetings means more software costs.
- Disengaged employees – Excessive meetings notorious for going off-track easily bore and disengage attendees, dragging down morale.
- Missed opportunities – With so much time spent meeting, companies miss out on advancing revenue-driving activities. This is especially true if billable members of staff are always called into meetings. External opportunities may also be lost.
Calculating Meeting Costs
While less tangible costs are hard to quantify, you can still get an accurate cost of a meeting by adding up the direct wages costs of the employees involved. The process below shows the steps required to calculate the cost of meetings.
- Determining the hourly salary of each meeting attendee (for example, 6 attendees paid £25, £30, £20, £35, £40, and £30 per hour respectively)
- Multiplying each attendee’s hourly salary by the length of the meeting (let’s say 60 minutes)
- Adding up the totals (In this case, £25 x 1 hour = £25, £30 x 1 hour = £30, etc. Totaling £180 for the meeting)
- Factor in any additional costs for supplies, software, etc (£100 per meeting)
- Multiply the per meeting cost (£180 + £100 = £280) by total meetings annually (let’s say 150)
Total annual cost = £280 x 150 meetings = £42,000
Its worth noting that the estimates above do not account for items like employers national insurance, employers pension contributions or office related costs like electricity. You can get very granular when analyzing the cost of meetings but the blueprint above is a sensible start to ascertaining the price of a meeting.
Optimizing Your Meeting Culture
To optimize your company’s meeting culture:
- Question if each meeting needs to happen or if objectives could be achieved asynchronously via email or messaging
- Ensure meetings have clear agendas and objectives upfront
- Enforce starting and ending meetings on time
- Limit meetings to essential attendees only
- Choose the right meeting length and refrain from defaulting to one hour
- Alternate meetings with emails, memos or calls when feasible
- Foster an output-driven “do” culture rather than an overly meeting-focused culture
- Track metrics on meeting costs, attendance and engagement
- Solicit feedback on improving meetings
Meetings are necessary to facilitate collaboration, planning, and decision-making in any organization. However, excessive meetings that lack clear purpose or productivity can become a huge drain on time and financial resources. By taking time to analyze the tangible costs of meetings using salary information, supplies, software fees, and office space, companies can better understand the investment they are making. These insights empower managers to optimize meeting culture around the meetings that truly bring value. It comes down to holding purposeful meetings that engage participants and propel the organization forward.