UK office workers plead for shorter meetings

Large group of business people sitting on a meeting in the office and having problems.

Office workers say meetings need to be shortened to tackle an overload of calls and catchups that drag on productivity, according to research from Brother UK. The research, which polled 2,000 UK office workers, found that more than half (55%) complained they waste too much time in meetings, with a similar proportion (57%) saying they only attend a useful meeting once a week.

Four in five (81%) are confident that shorter calls and catchups would achieve the same outcomes, creating more time to deliver their responsibilities, according to the findings. Respondents cited waffling (59%), too much small talk (48%), late joiners (31%) and people not paying attention (31%) as the worst culprits for timewasting, with more than a third (43%) convinced that colleagues try and do other work during most meetings.

The research, from Brother UK’s Meaningful Meeting Manifesto, also uncovered a poor standard of meeting facilitation. More than half of the respondents (53%) said they attend too many unengaging and poorly structured meetings, with this figure rising to 67% among remote workers.

Phil Jones, managing director at Brother UK, said: “It’s clear that the UK’s meeting culture still heavily contributes to workplace productivity. Bringing people together will always be an important part of culture, problem-solving, building relationships and developing new customers. Many meetings could be shorter and provide people with more free time to focus on delivery.

“Our findings also uncovered that meetings that overrun and waste time have a negative impact on our morale and attitudes at work. Half of the respondents (54%) admitted that they feel frustrated, with 27% feeling demotivated and 25% going as far to say they think less of their colleagues.

“There is still work to do to right the UK’s meeting culture, even in our own business. Greater consideration on time, place and how to better facilitate calls and catchups will help nurture more productive meetings, more often.”

The research found that office workers see morning, in-person meetings with strict agendas and actions notes as the most productive. Two thirds (67%) of the sample believe face-to-face meetings are more productive than meeting virtually (24%), even among staff working remotely (57%).

The findings also show that almost nine in 10 (88%) respondents agreed that timekeeping is important to holding a productive meeting, followed by keeping to a strict agenda (78%), circulating actions notes (74%), putting laptops and phones away if in person (73%) and keeping cameras on if virtual (61%).

When asked when respondents feel most productive in a meeting, the majority (87%) say they are at their best before midday, with 9am-11am the most productive period.

Phil continued: “Office productivity is our business, and we know that improving it is an evergreen ambition for businesses across the country. Fortunately, they can turn to new tech, insights from psychology and feedback from their own people to pin-point best-practice meeting culture. 

“Our hardware, services and solutions form part of the apparatus that helps office workers to be efficient. But there are broader opportunities for improving productivity beyond the reach of technology for all businesses to embrace.”

To find out more about the research and read Brother UK’s Meaningful Meeting Manifesto, click here.