• Many of us spend half of our work lives in meetings.
  • US workers say one-third of meetings are useless; 60% see meetings as a distraction.
  • New research says we must think of meetings as an opportunity to understand our organizations and connect with colleagues.

Work meetings can be good for the soul, according to new research from a Swedish university.

Professor Patrik Hall of Malmö University says meetings are an opportunity for employees to better understand how their organization operates and the roles different individuals play within it.

Hall admits many meetings are concluded without any decisions being made, but suggests the real purpose of those meetings is connection and identity. He also says meetings can offer employees the chance to complain and to be heard by colleagues, which acts as a form of therapy.

Meetings have a bad reputation

US research has found workers consider one-third of meeting time to be unproductive, while 60% of American office workers see meetings as a distraction. Likewise, 64% of senior managers say meetings take up time that could be used for so-called deep thinking – focusing on a complex task.

American office workers think one-third of meeting time is unproductive.
American office workers think one-third of meeting time is unproductive.
Image: Attentiv

Despite this negative view, the numbers of meetings continue to rise, along with the increase in more managerial and strategic roles. Many of us now spend at least half of our working lives in meetings, according to Hall’s research.

So, how can we find more value in them?

Empowerment drives enthusiasm

As a first step, Hall suggests shortening meetings, pointing out that meetings booked for an hour or two typically continue to the end, even if the business at hand is finished.

He adds that equality is key to making meetings more lively and engaging. “When you have meetings with colleagues at the same level, as a professional, you get to discuss different issues that interest you,” he says. “Meetings with individuals at higher levels in the organization instead arouse feelings of meaninglessness.”

Empowering employees to feel they are part of the process could make all the difference, and even send them home happy.