Are workplace meetings nothing more than an unwanted distraction?

While meetings are still important in helping employees do their jobs better, poorly designed ones create fatigue and sap productivity.
By: | May 11, 2023

Inefficient meetings are the top workplace distraction that hurts productivity, followed closely by having too many meetings.

More specifically, meetings that are long, poorly run, and do not have a clear purpose, become a source of stress for employees and their managers and leaving them exhausted, said Colette Stallbaumer, the general manager for Microsoft 365 and the “future of work” at Microsoft.

“There’s an opportunity cost that comes with the pressure to always be online, dealing with the influx of notifications and back-to-back meetings,” she told CNBC Make It.

According to a Microsoft global survey of 31,000 employees, which was conducted between February and March 2023, the main motivation for attending meetings is receiving critical information that can help them do their jobs better, as well as soliciting and giving feedback to people they work with.

However, more than half of employees (58%) say it is difficult to brainstorm in a virtual meeting or catch up if they join a meeting late (57%), and that the action items following a meeting are often unclear (55%).

READ: Why leaders should be the last to speak during meetings

To create more efficient meetings, Stallbaumer encourages organisations to leverage recordings, email scheduling assistants, instant messaging, and AI-powered transcripts so employees have more flexibility in how and when they engage with meetings.

Business leaders, she said, need to set the tone and clear expectations around how meetings are conducted, allowing them to enhance employees’ wellbeing and productivity, instead of draining them.