Meetings Cost More and Achieve Less

28 November 2013 | By Catherine Wheatcroft

Businesses in the East Midlands are emerging from difficult economic times, but despite the recent difficulties, lower order books and need for cost cutting, businesses are wasting revenue and resources sitting in un-productive meetings, according to an in-depth survey we carried out recently.


The key findings from 500 SME and corporate businesses showed that they are spending up to a quarter of their working week in meetings and of those meetings, up to five hours are deemed to be wasted time. Based on these initial figures, a typical business of 100 employees has the potential to gain an extra 26,000 hours per year of productive working time. Whilst these surprising figures may not be apparent on a daily basis, they do show a clear area for performance improvement and cost reduction.


When questioned on what could be improved to make meetings more effective, top of the list was the content and format. This raised specific issues of meeting discussions moving off topic, a distinct lack of follow up actions, inadequate skills in agenda setting and inviting the wrong employees to meetings.

At Action-Fraction, we show businesses how to run effective meetings, with a clear framework to follow for agenda setting, understanding of what makes a meeting necessary and facilitation techniques for keeping each meeting focused on outputs. This reduces un-necessary meetings taking place and ensures that employees understand the cost and time implications of proposed meetings.


The value of face-to-face meetings is clearly high as over 70% of respondents rated them as very important or essential to their role. They felt that the positive aspects of face-to-face meetings provided them with a greater view of body language when discussing important topics (35%), an opportunity to build relationships (30%), a better forum for exploring ideas (20%) and a more focused environment (15%).


Whilst there are many positives to meetings, there is a cost to all meetings. Our findings show that on average, a staggering 40% of meeting time is wasted through ineffective managing of time and outcomes. This can be illustrated by taking an average employee attending five meetings per week; the cost of this un-productive time is £3600 per year, for a single employee. Increase this to take into consideration more employees, and the cost to the business is more like £180,000 for 50 employees.


This creates a drain on overhead costs each year, where employee time could be better utilised elsewhere in the business. If each employee were able to reclaim half an hour per day by attending less meetings or shorter meetings, this would have far reaching positive effects. By releasing employees from un-productive meetings gives them more time to focus on customers, generating revenue, achieving goals and helping the business perform at its best. There are also personal benefits including reduced frustration, stress and increased focus and drive.


Another way to identify areas of waste in meetings is for a neutral person to attend a couple of key meetings, with the remit of finding improvements in methods, processes and time management. It is important for businesses to understand what is happening to then find improvements and this is not always easy from within the business itself. Investing a small amount of time in a review will achieve a balance between the need for meetings to physically take place and creating a more productive, results driven mentality amongst all employees attending meetings.


A copy of the full survey findings and data can be found from:

To calculate the cost of ineffective meetings, use the tool found here: