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Are we wasting our time having too many meetings?

The average UK worker sits through 6,240 meetings during their working lives, according to a survey of 2,000 workers by Sennheiser Communications.

If each meeting lasted an hour, it would mean they would spend 780 working days, or more than 3 years 4 months at work in back-to-back meetings.

Is it any wonder, then, that seven out of ten of them admitted to switching off shortly after a meeting starts?

And with so many attending only in body rather than mind, it's hardly surprising that six out of ten described meetings as 'pretty pointless'.

On the other hand, another statistic reveals that the meetings can't be entirely pointless: one in five said they had made mistakes because of not paying attention at meetings.

Selective communication

The figures suggest that there may be space for managers to be more selective about organising meetings, making workers feel less as if they are on an endless treadmill of internal catch-ups, client meetings, and appraisals.

It may be possible to substitute face-to-face gatherings with conference calls or group emails, or keep in touch through social media - allowing those who are most involved with the issues to take centre stage, and leaving others to get on with more relevant matters.

But impersonal interaction can lose nuances of communication that are only available when meeting face-to-face, and with it the kind of morale- and engagement-boosting relationships that characterise effective workplaces.

The successful recipe is likely to be a balance between different channels of communication according to circumstances and situations, and not doggedly going through the motions in a particular medium just because, say, there has always been a Monday-morning meeting.

Acas publications and services

Acas has published the pdf icon Advisory booklet - Employee communications and consultation [394kb] which sets out how to involve people in an organisation, to get the best out of working relationships.

Acas experts can visit your workplace and help you build better employment relations and find practical Workshops, projects and business solutions, not least by developing employee voice. Call the customer services team on 0300 123 1150 for more details.

Acas training is available in Skills for supervisors and Staff retention, as well as Employing People - A Practical Introduction, for newer employers.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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