In today’s world, with information hubs like Google Drive, emails and online groups, a company can save a lot of time and energy during the day by not having formal meetings. Yet, meetings are still a considerable part of company culture and seem to have strained productivity for employees and business owners alike. Here, we explore why meetings still manage to hold precedence in a company’s workday even though they are no longer helpful and is causing a sense of meeting overload.
The FOMO element
In any group setting, most group members want to ‘belong’ and ‘be accepted’. So if there is a group meeting, which requires everybody’s presence, members are likely to attend for fear of being judged or rejected for not being part of the congregation. Many company meetings have members present who are not necessary for the meeting to progress and could benefit from skipping the session entirely but are afraid of missing out. This, in turn, gives them the short-term gratification of being ‘involved’, but over time, chips away at their work time and productivity.
The mere urgency effect
The mere urgency effect refers to an individual tendency to give more importance to time-sensitive tasks than those with more time to complete. The time-sensitive tasks may not be as urgent but seem as they are, providing the individual immediate relief when they are completed. Meetings are time-sensitive tasks that give a sense of comfort and accomplishment. But on the downside, they distract the employee from more critical tasks that require more time.
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According to behavioural science, studies have shown that deadlines set by an external force, like a boss or superior, tend to motivate an employee to complete their tasks by a given amount of time. The meetings themselves may not have any value, but the reinforcement of conducting work is a tempting reward. However, such a reward adds an extra amount of pressure and wastes time that could have been spent on other work or even taking a break.
Have you ever sat in a long meeting where you have no idea what’s being said or done? Join the club. Most employees have experienced the ‘zone out’ feeling and then snap back to attention, feeling guilty for their wandering minds. However, most people in a meeting think without a break after a certain amount of time. Their retention power is diminished. Long-drawn out presentations become redundant and need to be concise to be absorbed.
While meetings were the go-to tool for a company to connect with its employees and dispense crucial information, they need to evolve into something more time-efficient. As we have entered the digital age, perhaps it’s time to take the ‘meetings’ to a virtual level, too.
Reference: From “The Psychology Behind Meeting Overload” | Ashley Whillans, Dave Feldman & Damien Wisniewski, Harvard Business Review | 12 November, 2021
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