Employees in the UK, France and Germany spend a whopping 187 hours a year in business meetings but believe 56% of these encounters are unproductive, according to new research.

The study of 2,000 adults in full-time employment in the UK, Germany, and France by business travel hotel brand Crowne Plaza Hotel & Resorts revealed most employees admit to making excuses to avoid meetings. Just under a third (30%) of employees will blame a hefty workload to get out of a meeting, with one in six (15%) excusing themselves because of heavy traffic. One in 10 will pretend they got the time or date wrong (11%), and a small number (6%) admit to calling in sick to get out of a meeting entirely.

Interestingly, the research found that German employees are the most likely to make excuses to duck out of meetings, with nearly three quarters (73%) confessing to doing so. By comparison, two thirds (66%) of French employees and just over half (58%) of UK professionals do the same.

One reason employees excuse themselves from meetings may be due to the number of catch-ups viewed as ineffective. More than one in three (34%) admit to switching off during meetings lasting too long, deeming more than half (56%) of get-togethers they attend as ‘unproductive’. Shockingly, nearly a quarter (23%) have witnessed someone else falling asleep, and a similar number have sent personal messages during a professional gathering.

Durations and frustrations

The research found 40 minutes as the optimum length for effective meetings across the three countries. It also showed that employees are more likely to enjoy a meeting if it is held off-site. Over a third (40%) would get more enjoyment from a meeting with a relaxed atmosphere, and nearly two thirds (63%) would prefer for someone else to organise and run the meeting. Nearly two-thirds (65%) agreed mornings are generally better, with the prime time for a meeting revealed as between 9:30am and 11:30am.

The study showed that meeting pet peeves were also universal. Respondents said the most frustrating things about meetings, were people talking over each other (40%), meeting rooms that are too hot or cold (37%) and people who arrive late (36%). Over a quarter (28%) get irritated by technological issues, such as Wi-Fi or conference call connections not working.

People using ‘office jargon’ or buzzwords was also regarded as a top meeting annoyance, with ‘ASAP’, ‘Win-Win’ and ‘Touch Base’ regarded as the most overused phrases.

“Switch effortlessly between work and socialising”

Mike Greenup, vice president brand management, for Crowne Plaza, said: “Meetings are essential for collaboration and reaching business goals, but ensuring catch-ups are effective isn’t always simple. This is why we have invested in Crowne Plaza… to help people have the most effective meetings possible.

“We know that people are looking for spaces that are more flexible, on-demand and collaborative, and the new designs we’re rolling out at flagship Crowne Plaza properties in 2019 will deliver exactly that. We’ve created communal workspaces where guests can switch effortlessly between work and socialising and also have a dedicated onsite meetings directors at each property to help co-ordinate and manage meetings, taking the pain out of that process.”

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