Image: Nguyen Hung Vu Image: Nguyen Hung Vu

The dictionary definition would say that a meeting is an assembly of people for a particular purpose, especially for formal discussion. In the office context, we imagine the boardroom table; assembled suits; a lengthy PowerPoint presentation. Yet the workplace is now changing beyond all recognition. Just take remote and flexible working, for example, as 82% of British people are now more likely to take a job if it comes with flexible working benefits (source: UC Expo). This is having a massive impact on how we communicate at work, and the way we collaborate must be affected too.

But are the changes to our meetings as dramatic as we think? With this question in mind, we recently surveyed over 1,000 workers across the globe to find out more about their attitude to meetings. Our findings address common mistakes about modern meetings and what is really going on behind closed office doors.

Here are the top 8 misconceptions about meetings:

  1. People spend too much time in meetings
While there is certainly a segment of the workforce that spends a large portion of the week in meetings, our research shows that almost half of all respondents spend less than 4 hours in meetings per week. So that looks like, for most workers, they spend around an hour a day in meetings, which isn’t too excessive.
  1. Meetings are a “waste of time”
A stereotype of the office is of the executive spending all their time in meetings and not getting anything done. This is not the case at all: 89% of workers said the meetings they attend are productive. This result was consistent across the board, showing that despite age or number of hours spent in meetings per week, they are still regarded as a valuable part of office life.
  1. Millennials aren’t comfortable with meetings
Digital natives are often assumed to be too scared to pick up the phone and collaborate the ‘old-fashioned’ way. However, it seems that there are actually no big differences between Millennial, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers when it comes to perceptions regarding productivity, multitasking during meetings, and remote versus in-person attendance.
  1. Most people attend meetings remotely
Over half of respondents (54%) work remotely at least once or more a week, but few are taking advantage of remote working technology – just 14% are attending meetings remotely. This shows that employers still need to do more to make enterprise communications tools easy to use, which would encourage their employees to fully participate in office life while working virtually.
  1. Getting conferencing technology to work severely delays meetings
Conferencing software is invaluable to most modern day businesses, and luckily, nearly three-quarters of us agree that it takes less than five minutes to get the technology to work to proceed with a call. The right tools can, of course, mean connecting instantaneously is routine – it just looks like some businesses are playing catch up on this.
  1. Most people multitask during meetings
Do you ever check your emails during meetings? Only one-quarter admitted to doing other work during meetings and only a very small amount (8%) clock off entirely to check email or go on social media. If you want to banish distractions entirely in your meetings, put a ban on smartphones and laptops and use video conferencing software features to focus attention.
  1. Industries such as healthcare, government and education spend the most times in meetings
We associate certain industries with bureaucracy and long unproductive meetings. Yet the hours spent in meetings by members of the healthcare, government and education industries align with other professions, according to our survey. Irrespective of industry, a clear meeting policy and implementing the right technology to make them as effective as possible is essential.
  1. People experience meetings the same way across the world
Did you know that Australians have far more meetings than North Americans? Or that EMEA and APAC have a higher proportion of remote workers than North America?

Despite these ways of working, meetings are still an integral part of the global workplace with over 261 hours on average spent in meetings per week. Without them, staff collaboration would undoubtedly suffer. Luckily, our modern business needs are well-supported by technology that offers the flexibility and choice to arrange and run meetings in the way that best suits everyone.

By Adrian Hipkiss, vice president and managing director EMEA, ShoreTel