Pointless and unproductive meetings will cost British companies a shocking £45bn in 2019, a report from Doodle has warned.

The researchers found that the average professional spends two hours a week in pointless meetings, or over 24bn hours of working time – which will add up to over £423bn worth of resource across the world in 2019.

Professionals were also asked to rank pointless meetings against other common occurrences by how irritating they found them:

  • Ineffective meetings (89%)
  • Delayed commute (84%)
  • A stubbed toe (80%)
  • Getting caught in the rain without an umbrella (54%)

“Everyone knows the pains of boring, pointless meetings,” said Gabriele Ottino, CEO of Doodle. “They happen every day, but the cumulative effect is frankly shocking!

“If you aren’t looking to improve the efficiency of meetings at your organisation, you’re wasting an enormous amount of money and time.”

 Paul Axtell, author of Meetings Matter, added that poor meetings also affect people’s behaviour. “When they feel a meeting isn’t working for them, they end up bringing other work and multi-tasking rather than owning the conversation,” he said.

“Employees are also the ones who pay the less-obvious costs associated with poor meetings by not being fully-up-to speed and organised, which can see them take work home, therefore not relaxing and regenerating. In the short term, individuals can push through these issues – but long term they pay a high price through the additional stress.”

How to improve the productivity of meetings

The first thing to ask is if the meeting really is essential, or if you require all of your staff to be present. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, told his staff to bin off meetings wherever possible to streamline workloads. In a memo, Musk wrote: “Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time.

“Please get [rid] of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.”

“Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

If they are required, trying to keep them as on-topic as possible is a good way to ensure no extra time is wasted. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demands “a six-page, narratively structured memo” before every meeting. Apparently, this method sets the scene for a good discussion because it requires the writer to understand their subject well.