Illustration of a young girl sat at a desk, frowning while pressing a key on notebook computer with an action bubble that reads 'You're on mute!'

Britain’s biggest meeting bugbears

More than half of Britain’s office workers say they’re spending too much time in meetings to carry out their jobs effectively.

That’s according to our survey of 2,000 UK office workers for our Meaningful Meeting Manifesto – aimed at shining a light on how businesses can enhance their productivity.

But our study also uncovered what’s getting under the skin of workers when it comes to office meeting culture.

So, what’s getting eyes rolling? And what bad habits can you avoid to keep colleagues switched on?

1. Going on, and on, and...

Waffle, defined as unproductive conversation related to the meeting, was the top culprit for wasting time in meetings, cited by 59% of respondents.

People waffling on without really saying anything meaningful is something we’ve all experienced – the group spend a relaxed 45 minutes chatting about the first item on the agenda, leaving just 15 to rush through the remaining five points.

This is where an experienced chair or facilitator is vital. They should help to keep the discussion on track and on schedule, while giving everyone in the room their chance to speak.


2. Small talk

Chit-chat – defined as unproductive conversation unrelated to the meeting - was mentioned by almost half (48%) of our sample.

But it’s a bit of a marmite issue. One half (48%) say they actually enjoy small talk for how it can get people engaged, and because meetings don’t need to be taken so seriously. But the other half (47%) say it wastes too much time, and that it could be spent discussing more productive things.

Clearly, there is a balance to be struck here, and it’s important not to over-correct and squeeze all of the social enjoyment out of meetings.


3. Late-arrivals

People joining meetings late was listed as the third biggest timewaster, mentioned by almost a third of respondents (31%).

It’s one that can be outside of the control of meeting organisers, but feeding back to serial offenders internally on expectations, or to their line managers, could help to address the issue.


4. Over-long sessions

Four-fifths of those surveyed (81%) said that the meetings they attend could be shorter and still achieve everything on the agenda.

There can be a tendency to assign too much time for meetings, and then to fill the allotted slot, rather than move through the planned points efficiently and wrap things up once everything has been addressed.


5. Painful warm-ups

According to our survey, the words “we’re just going to quickly go round the table and give one interesting fact about ourselves…”, might make almost eight in 10 people want to roll their eyes. Only 22% of respondents said they helped productivity while 54% said warm-ups area waste of time.

Introductions, ice-breakers, and exercises to get the creative juices flowing can all be very effective when used well, but the results show there is a risk of them becoming tiresome if they become a run-of-the-mill fixture rather than a carefully executed novelty.

Read our top ten mandates for running meaningful meetings.

More from Business

Want to know more about how Brother can provide for your business?

Back to top