What are the people on your conference call doing when on mute?

A recent poll by Intercall, the conference call company, details the ways that attendees are not paying attention:

whatelseareemployees

 

47% have gone to the restroom during conference calls.

A survey from 2011 from Clarizen and Harris Interactive found that status meetings — largely informative meetings where the attendees update each other on the status of what they are working on — are a waste:

Only 30 percent of information workers feel status meetings help them accomplish work tasks and almost 40 percent of respondents believe status meetings are a waste of time.

[…]

67 percent of information workers spend between one to four (or more) hours per week just preparing for status meetings, while four out of ten of those respondents feel that prepping for and attending status meetings is the largest obstacle to efficiently completing work.

And again, this survey showed people not paying attention: 57% multitask during meetings.

The conventional attitude about meetings should be turned on its head. Meetings should be avoided, and no purely informative ones should ever be held. Use other means — like social media or work tech tools — to post status and updates.

Coworking — getting together with one or more coworkers to actually work together — is a completely different thing, and should be embraced. But even that has limits, and some work is simply done best in solitude. There is also value in pure socializing. But these aren’t meetings.

My rules for meetings:

  1. Can this meeting be cancelled, and handled by a few conversations or text messages? Do so, if possible.
  2. All meetings should have a purpose, an agenda, and description circulated before or at the outset of the meeting. Otherwise, don’t go.
  3. All meetings should be constrained to a short time frame, less than an hour. If the agenda is not finished, set up an additional meeting, but don’t go longer.
  4. All meetings should have the least people attending, with seven as an operational maximum.
  5. All meetings should have an agreed upon action plan, with all actions assigned to specific people attending. If someone doesn’t have action items, they probably shouldn’t have been in the meeting to begin with.

Al Pittampalli, the author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting, said

We’re now addicted to meetings that insulate us from the work we ought to be doing.