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How to save companies from the meeting madness

Learn how bad meetings can ruin your business, and what you can do to save it from the meeting madness efficiently.

Almost one in two American workers surveyed within a Clarizen/Harris Poll said they’d rather go to the dentist or commute for hours than attend a status meeting at work again. They would constitute a huge team as there are 11 million meetings organized each day in the US alone, and dozens of millions of people attend them. For many, it is way too much in both mental and physical terms. Stabbing one’s leg with a pencil to stop from screaming during a staff meeting is a sad example of how people simply can’t stand excessive or bad meetings.

But there are other negative outcomes and feelings bubbling under the surface of too frequent gatherings, both traditional and online. Qualities such as creativity, and effectiveness that meetings used in a reasonable amount encourage, perish in meeting overload. But it’s not that we only lose the chance to move the company forward. We also lose a lot of money and may end up with unhappy, burnt-out employees, desperate to look for another job to find relief. Luckily, there are some ways to save companies, and their people, from the meeting madness. And using CKEditor 5 may be one of them.

# 1. The meeting overload at its fullest: staggering costs

Regular employees spend a third of their time at work on meetings, and executives — almost 23 hours a week, which is over twice as much as they did in the 1960s. This disturbing trend of excessive meetings is a huge economic burden, accounting for $37 billion in the US alone. As for organizations, meetings cost them up to 15% of their personnel budgets.

Some costs are hidden and not immediately seen. Many team leaders are unaware that preparing for a meeting can take longer than the meeting itself. This is the case of general status meetings that alone take an average American worker 4.5 hours a week, and 4.6 hours is needed to prepare for them. And there are the additional costs of higher employee turnover, sick leaves due to depression, and time needed to switch back to solo work after being distracted from it again.

Very often, executives are simply unaware of the huge economic burden that meetings at work imply. Many of them don’t even count the basic cost of a single meeting — by just adding the hourly rates of all attendees. And if they did, it would become clear that any meeting costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

# 2. Too many meetings held online and “Zoom fatigue” syndrome

During the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting madness has been taken to a new level, taking the form of video meeting overload. Because managers don’t see their stuff in person, they organize too many meetings, often back to back, chopping up employees’ schedules. They also tend to assign duties as though their subordinates don’t attend any meetings at all.

Woman in a bedroom shouting to someone offscreen: I’m in a meeting!
Source: https://media.giphy.com/media/L38oEY2Fg2hnmac7g2/giphy.gif

This makes many employees’ working days almost endless and kills their work-life balance, which is especially overwhelming and stressful if they have to work with young children by their side. And results in putting off their daily work duties on evenings or weekends, with no time for relaxation. Deprived of time to focus, engage, and be creative within working hours, team members simply seek quiet time and space afterward.

The never-ending working days, with employees undergoing both external and internal pressure to work more when having more “free” time than usual may result in virtual meeting overload and burnout or even a new kind of mental health syndrome called “Zoom fatigue”. Employees suffer from it due to reduced mobility, as well as increased eye contact and higher cognitive load needed to receive and send signals with exaggerated gestures.

This virtual burden is reflected in statistics on unproductive meetings. The number of daily meeting participants in Zoom skyrocketed from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020. Apart from the fact that regular meetings went online, workers also have to deal with quick remote catch-ups organized for things that could normally be resolved through instant chats across desks.

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# 3. Causes of unproductive meetings at work. Common mistakes

Apart from the fact that meetings are organized too often, there are many common mistakes regarding how they are run. Some of them include:

# 1. Poor time management, no meeting agenda

The number one mistake is not setting the rules to follow or clear objectives. Meetings at work often don’t even have a meeting agenda with itemized to-do lists. And when there’s no agenda, it’s more likely that the meeting will last for ages, with participants veering off topic and covering minor issues that don’t need to be addressed in front of, say, ten people.

# 2. Letting too many people in

Inviting too many people for a meeting is another grave mistake. Very often, just a small part of what’s being said is relevant for particular attendees. Participants may get bored easily which, paired with the need for sitting up straight in uncomfortable clothes, makes some of them suffer. Others stare at their cell phones or think about how long they will have to stay after hours to make up for the time wasted on this meeting.

# 3. Accepting being late

The more people we invite to the meeting, the more likely somebody will show up late. Being late for such gatherings is a serious problem, with as much as 37% of meetings in American companies starting late — a survey by Steven Rogelberg and other researchers indicated. And by keeping others waiting, or interrupting the flow, we make them frustrated. This way, the overall productivity decreases.

# 4. Letting the wrong people take over the reins

With no plan and no vision, we may end up with a charismatic and self-confident person - the loudmouth that can hijack the meeting, and lead the group astray. Instead of brainstorming and fruitful collaboration, we get useless groupthink that makes people agree with others at all cost. In other words, a lot of time is wasted to get the result that was easy to predict from the very beginning.

South Park clip - an old man at the head of boardroom meeting: Gentlemen, I have it. The-end all, gratest marketing ploy of all time. (applause)
Source: https://media.giphy.com/media/3o6ZtjP9dvGcoq3YPK/giphy.gif

# 4. How to get out of bad meetings. Some pieces of advice

What to do about too many meetings? Can we stop the meeting madness? Well, certainly we can try. Renewing the company’s attitude to meetings requires collective effort but it can significantly improve team performance, team collaboration, and employees’ satisfaction with work-life balance within a few months. Changes should take place at the organizational level, with workers’ impressions and needs taken into account.

But it’s the executive that needs to be aware and confident enough to drive the change. Although employees often think that there are too many unproductive meetings, they won’t rather tell their supervisors about it. Two in three tend to keep this impression to themselves and just put on a brave face.

Several questions need to be answered before organizing any meeting. Is it really necessary? What is the reason for holding it? Is the possible outcome worth the money? Maybe an email will suffice? And perhaps you may only meet face-to-face or online with selected people? Or pop up to their room and explain everything briefly without breaking them away from their working environment for an hour or so? Is it crucial for them to know what you want to share? Would it be better if they stayed with performing their daily duties?

Always think of other ways that could be as good or even better to achieve the set goal, but are cheaper and more time-efficient. These may include providing written reports, sending emails and newsletters, communicating on Slack or Skype, sending online surveys, using intranet or other electronic tools. What you may start with is simply establishing a meeting free day each week.

Woman in a meeting: This meeting could’ve beent an email, but I’m very lonely.
Source: https://media.giphy.com/media/3ohs7SeZvWGztZg7Li/giphy.gif

Next, think about where you can cut back on bad meetings, and how much the company may save on it. It’s easiest to go without or reduce the number of status meetings. With other types of meet-ups, like feedback gathering and problem-solving sessions, limit the attendance to the most relevant participants who can add something valuable to the discussion and simply can’t be omitted. Try to only address those issues that need solving or corrections, and not just let everybody know about everything.

If you do organize a meet-up, try to always provide the needed materials like the meeting agenda in advance. Everybody should stick to it, and there should be no space for harking back or recalling old points, going into technical details that few can understand, or discussing tiny issues that could be resolved during a one-on-one meeting. And when all the points from the agenda have been accomplished, simply end the meeting.

It’s best to set a timeframe for each point, keeping in mind that the whole meeting, in general, shouldn’t last more than 45 or even 30 minutes. As for video conferencing, allow people to rest for 15-30 minutes between particular meetings.

As a boss, think of delegating duties, and sending another person instead of you, and not always being there. It’s good to remember that the leader’s presence may limit the employees’ openness and clip their wings. And another meeting leader may shed light on other issues and provide an influx of fresh energy and ideas to the group as well as encourage more “silent” or introverted people to speak.

It’s good not to invite too many employees because the dominant speaker may influence participants of large, 10-person groups much easier than in the case of small, 5-person ones. Five people is also often mentioned as an optimal team size. Some say that anything above 5 or 6 is too much, others point at 8 or 9 at most.

Also, think about engaging a meeting facilitator like a Scrum Master or an Agile coach. This is a person, ideally assertive, positive, and unbiased, whose task is to keep the flow of the meeting right, steer the group and get the best out of it. They guide the discussion in the right direction to make sure every issue from the agenda is addressed and receives just the right amount of time and attention.

Computer meeting with thumbnails of people in all setting half absently watching the meeting
Source: https://media.giphy.com/media/XpsfaOAARz9jvtr76X/giphy.gif

What may also save us from organizing too many meetings is online collaboration. Not the kind run via video conferencing tools like Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, though. It’s clear that video meetings may be detrimental to employees’ well-being. But we may switch to solutions that don’t require eye contact and don’t involve constant physical and mental tension. These are content creation tools such as GoogleDocs or Dropbox Paper, which enable online collaboration over documents. But it’s best to let collaborative ideas grow within our single application. And CKEditor 5, the market-leading WYSIWYG editor, is the flagship solution of that kind. It enables keeping everything in one place, without the need to switch between third-party applications or copy-paste content from external resources, like Word.

# 5. CKEditor 5 — the innovative approach to collaboration that may save your workspace

CKEditor 5 with collaboration features gives you the same benefits as GoogleDocs, but you can implement it in your own application and make your workflow more efficient. Within one single solution, you can control the entire workflow of content creation in your company. There are powerful collaborative features available, and if you need to compare and restore multiple content versions, you can do it thanks to the newest CKEditor 5 feature — Revision History, available as a premium plugin.

Users may rest assured that their contribution will be noticed as they track changes, and comment on them or on the text itself at any time. Comments may also be added to block elements such as images or embedded media. And tracking changes is comprehensive and all-encompassing, too. It covers not only typing and deletions, but also splitting or merging blocks, formatting or styling changes, inserting images, widgets, and media, suggesting, approving, or rejecting changes, as well as commenting on those suggestions. Real-time collaboration — synchronous collaborative editing of the same document with other users online — makes the whole document collaboration process even more enhanced and time-efficient.

This easy and modern way of breaking the meeting routine and collaborating effectively can successfully replace, or at least enhance, both face-to-face and online meetings. By using it, you may easily substitute the possibly harmful groupthink with the beneficial deep thinking that requires time, and space to concentrate. With CKEditor 5’s collaborative features implemented in your application, everybody’s free to speak openly about their ideas and suggestions and grab others’ attention.

What’s important is that the whole content is stored in one place, and the flexible nature of the CKEditor 5 makes it easy to simply jump in and collaborate whenever we feel like doing it. It’s good to mention, however, that real-time collaboration is not the only option here. Contributors may also benefit from non-real-time collaboration mode — they may add comments and suggestions in an asynchronous mode, too.

Imagine a competent and creative person that has a bad day and doesn’t contribute anything significant during the meeting. Or, doesn’t even show up due to absence from work. But, by using the CKEditor 5 with collaboration features, they may express their thoughts in the optimal time, when they can formulate them easily. And, within CKEditor 5, users may focus on what’s crucial and share their insights without any kind of social pressure. There are also no distractions like colleagues that are eating, texting, or scrolling down their handsets nearby.

Animation of a man working at a desk and animated type: It takes avarage of 23 minutes to recover after a distraction at work.
Source: https://media.giphy.com/media/xThtahufhfFGlOiyiI/giphy.gif

Moreover, with online collaboration tools like CKEditor 5, no time or effort is wasted on other useless things like surface acting — expressing inauthentic emotions that makes people emotionally exhausted and diminishes meetings’ effectiveness. This is an aggravating phenomenon that is present during both traditional and online meetings.

So before your top talent starts to get out of the meeting madness by just quitting the job, you might consider refreshing the meeting mode by using an employee-friendly rich text editor like CKEditor 5 that enables fruitful real-time as well as asynchronous collaboration and can be integrated with any type of software.

If you, too, are looking for ways to reduce the meeting overload, don’t hesitate to try our real-time collaboration demo or contact us now!

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