Everyday, 5.9million meetings take place in Belgium, costing organizations €156 billion

The Financial Cost of Ineffective Meetings

Meetings Are Essential. Most Are Effective

Professionals in Belgium endure 6 million meetings every day. Meetings are essential for organisations and teams to ensure:

  • Inclusion, participation and buy-in
  • Attachment, team-work and coordination
  • Idea generation, decisions and consensus

But meetings eat up time: on average 14 hours a week. However, that number rockets if you’re a top manager based in Brussels (professionals in Brussels meet twice as much as the national average and some sectors like telecoms or banking, meet more than others).

These are the results of the first ever national meeting culture assesment, conducted in 2019 by Antwerp University in collaboration with Business4Good. Click here for the full report

To be effective, a meeting has to deliver measurable results that everyone gets behind. A meeting can be very efficient: getting through the agenda without distractions, and still be ineffective because nothing gets done afterwards.

Ask your average employee how (s)he feels about meetings, and chances are high you’ll get a negative answer. To be effective, a meeting needs to create a consensus between attendees and a plan on which they can act. Without that, the discussion might as well not happen.

But judging the scale of the problem of ineffective meetings is difficult. Most of the literature on meetings says that one third are ineffective. But this literature nearly always comes from the US, and there’s little evidence to back up that figure.

Overcoming Assumptions

To effectively tackle a problem, we first need to understand it. To do this, Business4Good teamed up with Masters’ students from Antwerp Management School to research Belgiuan meeting culture and its costs. A survey of 229 respondents, combined with market research, gave us a picture of the hidden costs of meetings in Belgium

According to our research only 7% of meetings in Belgium are considered ineffective. That’s far less that you would expect given all the grumbling about time-wasting meetings. So you might think there’s not much money to save on ineffective meetings.

You’d be wrong.

Direct Costs

The cost of meetings in Belgium alone comes to over €156 billion per year. It doesn’t take a big proportion of that for ineffective meetings to be very costly. The ineffective 7% of meetings costs Belgian organisations €10.93 billion each year.

Or, to put it another way, ineffective meetings cost you €2500 per employee per year. 

The average employee spends a third of their work time in meetings – that’s the equivalent of four months’ work every year. Your best and brightest are losing far more than this.

Indirect Costs

Ineffective meetings can have a lot of indirect costs, which are all but impossible to quantify. They cause frustration, fatigue and stress, and so can damage engagement and morale.

On a team level, they foster negative mood, decrease trust, and interfere with working processes.

Becasue they involve top managers, meetings use up the time of your best thinkers. The average employee spends a third of their work time in meetings – that’s the equivalent of four months’ work every year. Your best and brightest are losing far more than this. What could you achieve if some of that time was committed to other work?

There is one indirect cost that can be calculated – Recovery Time.

The Cost of Recovery

After every meeting, attendees need time to process, and get ready to carry on with their work. This recovery time varies with the person and the meeting.

On average, it takes 27.63 minutes to recover from a meeting!

Why do we need recovery time?

  • To process new information
  • To refill cognitive resources
  • To cool off from frustrations
  • To pick up the thread of interrupted work

Solutions For Meetings

If you want to reduce the money you’re wasting on meetings, there are 3 main options:

  • Reduce the number of your meetings
  • Reduce the cost of your meetings
  • Make sure they’re effective

There are plenty of resources on this website that can help you streamline and run better meetings. Each organisation is different, so try to understand your own circumstances. And if you want more advice, coaching or training, please get in touch – we’re here to help.

€2500 per employee is a lot of wasted money. Together, we can make things better.