Often meetings are not met with a reaction of enthusiasm. A quick zip around the office asking people how they feel about meetings will often be met with the responses “boring”, “dull”, and “stressful”. In 2010, the average employee spent 6 hours a week in scheduled meetings, with supervisors spending twice as much time in formal meetings (Rogelberg et al, 2010) and this number has remained relatively similar in 2019.
Meetings are an integral part of any business, but how can we make the most of them while avoiding the natural aversion we have towards meetings?
Meeting recovery syndrome is defined as the “cool-off” period of collective complaining after an unsatisfying meeting (Lehmann-Willenbrock, Rogelberg, Allen, & Kello, 2017). Unsatisfying meetings are usually tied in with a constraint on employees’ workload, due to long or overran meetings, or a lack of relevant information being shared (Allen et al, 2012). Meetings need to be useful and have a clear purpose that can help and support the work of employees. Meetings should be scheduled in advance and be kept short and concise. According to a 2017 article in The Independent, the average person has an attention span of 13 minutes when in a formal meeting. Some meetings can't be as short as that, but by taking away the formality and stress of a meeting, attention span can last a lot longer.
So what can we do?
How we reduce stress from meetings could range from the content discussed to the place the meeting takes place; however, all these things matter when it comes to improving the quality of your workplace.
Take a moment to imagine being called to a meeting in a meeting room. How does that make you feel? Meeting rooms are often shut-off, uncomfortable, and often have an echo. The suggested sizes for meeting rooms are not large enough to negate the claustrophobic feeling of the room. Now imagine being invited over to a couple of sofas to have a meeting. This takes the dread feeling out of the meeting, since the environment is more informal and relaxed, and while the content of the meeting may remain the same, everything feels a bit more laid back and easier to discuss.
When we design a workspace, we focus on 4 main areas: designated work areas, spaces to rest, areas to play and interact, and places to rejuvenate. By isolating these 4 areas, employees can easily compartmentalise the differences and improve their wellbeing as a result!
Meeting spaces are typically close and within view from the main working area. By strategically placing them out of sight from the work area, it makes the transition from work to meeting a far more natural one and allows employees to mentally distinguish between the spaces.
When our wellbeing is good, our work is better. Our productivity, focus, and creativity are improved and allow for better and more profitable work to be achieved, including the work done within meetings. Meetings are always going to necessary and will always be stressful and often disliked, but considering how important they are to the modern world of business, optimising their efficiency is integral to any company.