Meetings are a staple of the modern workplace, no matter where you are meeting from. They are a good way for people to collaborate, build connections and trust, and, most importantly, make decisions. However, all meetings are not created equal, and excessive meetings can take a toll on employees’ mental health and overall well-being and contribute to burnout.
I imagine we’ve all sat through a meeting recently and felt like time could have been spent more productively doing something else.
This article explores the impact of excessive meetings and how organizations can optimize their meeting culture to prioritize focus time and mental health and wellness.
The Impact of Excessive Meetings on Mental Health
A study conducted by the American Productivity Audit found that the average employee spends 23 hours per week in meetings, and another study conducted by the University of California, Berkley, found that meetings can have a negative impact on our cognitive function. It found that people who attend a series of meetings are more like to make mistakes and have difficulty concentrating.
If that’s not enough to convince you to reconsider your meeting culture, perhaps the following negative impacts of excessive meetings on mental health will:
- Increased stress and anxiety: Meetings can be a source of stress and anxiety for a number of reasons. They can be disruptive to our work flow, they can be a forum for conflict, and they can put us on the spot to perform in front of others.
- Reduced productivity: When we are stressed or anxious, it can be difficult to focus and be productive. This can lead to missed deadlines, errors, and overall decreased performance.
- Increased burnout: Burnout is a syndrome of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It can be caused by a number of factors, including a demanding workload, a lack of control over our work, and a lack of social support. Meeting culture can be a contributing factor to burnout, as it can lead to excessive stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
Only hold Meetings that Matter
The first question everyone should be asking before scheduling any meeting is:
Is the meeting necessary?
If you can share the same information you would like to share in the meeting through an email, channel, a document, or by making a video – then consider not having the meeting.
If it is necessary to have the meeting stick to the following strategies:
Define clear objectives –
Defining clear objectives for each meeting is crucial to ensure that it is necessary and aligned with organizational goals. Before scheduling a meeting, it’s important to ask yourself:
- What is the purpose of this meeting?
- What specific outcomes or decisions need to be achieved?
- Articulating the objectives helps set expectations and provides a focused direction for the discussion by creating an agenda.
This clarity ensures that everyone attending the meeting understands its purpose and can actively contribute towards achieving the desired outcomes.
Selective Attendance –
Inviting only essential participants who directly contribute or benefit from the meeting’s agenda is key to holding effective meetings. Too often, meetings become bloated with unnecessary attendees, leading to reduced productivity and increased time wastage. By carefully selecting participants based on their relevance to the agenda, you can ensure that the right people are in the room, enabling meaningful discussions and efficient decision-making. This approach also respects employees’ time and prevents them from being pulled into meetings that do not directly impact their work.
Efficient Time Management –
Setting realistic time limits for meetings and sticking to the agenda is vital for avoiding unnecessary prolongation. Time management is a critical aspect of productive meetings. Start by allocating a specific duration for each agenda item, allowing sufficient time for discussion without exceeding the overall meeting duration. Additionally, designate someone as a timekeeper to ensure that discussions stay on track and prevent any one topic from monopolizing the entire meeting. By respecting everyone’s time and adhering to the schedule, you create a culture of efficiency and demonstrate respect for attendees’ commitments.
Regular Evaluation –
Continuously assessing the effectiveness of meetings and gathering feedback from participants is essential for making necessary improvements.
After each meeting, take the time to evaluate its success in achieving the intended objectives. Solicit feedback from attendees regarding the meeting’s structure, relevance, and overall impact on their work. This feedback can be collected through surveys or open discussions. By actively seeking input from participants, you can identify areas for improvement and make adjustments to future meetings accordingly. Regular evaluation ensures that your meeting practices evolve over time to better serve your organization’s and its employees’ needs.
By implementing a healthy meeting culture, organizations can prioritize mental health and wellness by reducing the number of meetings and optimizing communication channels. This not only enhances productivity but also fosters a healthier work environment where employees can thrive.
Remember, it’s not about eliminating all meetings but rather ensuring that each meeting serves a purpose and contributes positively to the overall well-being of employees.
Learn more about our Author: Evelyn Lee, FAIA, is the first-ever Global Head of Workplace Strategy and Innovation at Slack Technologies, Founder of the Practice of Architecture, and CoHost of the Podcast, Practice Disrupted. Lee integrates her business and architecture background with a qualitative and quantitative focus to build better experiences for the organization’s employees, clients, and guests.
She is widely published, wrote a monthly column for Contract magazine for over three years, frequently contributed to Architect Magazine, and is working with Architizer awards, including the 2016 40 Under 40 award for Building Design + Construction and the 2014 AIA National Young Architects Award. She recently served as the first-ever female Treasurer to the AIA National Board in 2020-2021 and was recently elected to serve as the 101st President of AIA National in 2025.
*Disclaimer: This post was not generated by A.I. It is indeed written by a real life human. A pretty cool human in fact.