With thousands of companies around the world embracing the concept of remote work, Fellow was curious to know the current state of meetings. The way we all work, collaborate and communicate has evolved and adapted to our new normal. 

We surveyed over 530 respondents from companies like Shopify, Lightspeed HQ and Medium to get a better understanding of the what, when and how of meetings in 2021. 

Meeting Statistics in 2021: Key Findings

1 Status updates 

Status updates are people’s #1 meeting pet peeve, followed by digressions and lack of preparation. 

2 Source of truth 

51% of people are still recording meeting notes individually, instead of using a collaborative document. As a result, most teams lack one source of truth for decisions, action items, and outcomes.

3 Optimal meeting time

The optimal time to schedule a meeting is mid-morning, between 10am-12pm. This is true for everyone regardless of role, industry, or location.

4 Asynchronous communication

One-third of respondents had never heard about asynchronous meetings, even though they are an essential component of effective remote work.

5 Cost of meetings

Meetings are costing companies between $43,008-$56,448 USD per manager every year.

6 Action items

People who use a meeting productivity tool like Fellow are more likely to follow up on meeting action items, with 80% of them saying that they usually or always follow up after the meeting.

Report Action Items

Here are action items you can take from this report and implement to your organization:

  • Schedule team meetings between 10am and 12pm
  • Replace status updates with asynchronous communication
  • Use a collaborative tool to create one source of truth for meeting notes, decisions, and action items
  • Cancel meetings that do not have a clear purpose or agenda (no agenda, no attenda!)
  • Embrace a culture of meeting iteration and continuous improvement
  • Leverage technology to remember and follow up on meeting action items

The Future of Meetings Report 2021

Learn how 530+ leaders are embracing remote work and what the current state of meetings looks like. Download your free copy of the report now:

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The State of Meetings in 2021

Meetings are at the heart of the way we work. At Fellow, we’re passionate about making meetings better for everyone. In order to do this, we need to understand people’s points of view, preferences, and behaviours when it comes to meeting with their colleagues. Here is what we learned: 

1 How many meetings do we attend per week?

Our research shows that people attend an average of 11-15 meetings per week. 

45% of Executives attend 6-15 meetings per week and 31% of Managers attend 16+ meetings per week.

2 What are the most common types of meetings? 

The most common type of meetings are weekly team meetings, with 89% of respondents saying that they attend one every week. Team meetings are closely followed in popularity by weekly project meetings with 77% of respondents saying that these are on their schedule.

Why are team meetings essential in 2021?

“Team meetings are there for you to both push information (share news, changes, key messages) and pull information (gather feedback, check the team ’ s temperature, and hear fears and rumors that haven’t made it to you otherwise), especially when that information requires additional context.” – Lara Hogan, author of Resilient Management

3 What is the biggest problem with the meetings we attend?

It’s important to understand what people think are the common issues with the meetings on their schedule. According to our research, these are the top 5 problems with their meetings: 

  • Status updates
  • Going off topics
  • Lack of preparation
  • No clear takeaways
  • Time management 

4 What are the characteristics of a great meeting?

People are more likely to look forward to their meetings if they involve the following characteristics:

  • Clear purpose
  • Prepared agenda
  • Psychological safety
  • Active collaboration
  • Actionable takeaways

The Cost of Meetings for the Workplace

In order to understand the real cost of meetings to our organizations, we took a look at the number of hours spent by Executives, Directors, Managers, and Individual Contributors in meetings every week and calculated how much that time is costing your company.

What is the cost of meetings for the workplace?

Our research shows that Directors are the individuals who spend the most time in meetings. To put things in perspective, this is the cost to the organization of a Director s time attending meetings:

If one hour of a Director’s time costs ~$98, companies are paying between $1,568-$2,058 USD per week… or $75,264-$98,784 PER YEAR for Directors to attend meetings.

When done right, meetings can help your team feel connected, motivated, and organized. However, bad meetings can cost your organization thousands of dollars per week. 

Pro Tip

Some meetings, such as weekly team meetings, idea-generating sessions, and one-on-ones are necessary. However, daily status updates should be replaced with asynchronous forms of communication. 

Meeting Productivity

Great meetings can be a driving force for team engagement, collaboration, and motivation. But in order for a meeting to be productive, organizers must complete the following steps before, during, and after the meeting. 

Before the meeting

When there is a clear purpose, attendees have a better idea of what the meeting is going to be about and can prepare accordingly. According to our report, 46% of meetings don’t have a clear meeting purpose or goal. Meeting attendees and organizers don’t like when others show up to the meeting unprepared, in fact, almost half of our respondents described lack of preparation as a meeting pet peeve. 

Invite the people that need to be there:

“Limit the number of people at the meeting. After about 5 people in the meeting, it switches from focused work, problem-solving, and planning to updates and discussion. For each person at the meeting, consider why they *don ’t* need to be there. Always have a designated meeting facilitator that drives the meeting. This need not be the manager and avoid having subject matter experts run the meeting. Finally, leave 5-10 minutes at the end for collecting action items and parking lot item owners.” – Charlie Gilkey, author of “Start Finishing “

How many people take their own meeting notes vs. how many take notes collaboratively as a team? 51% of respondents said that each person takes their own meeting notes in a notebook or individual doc. 

Taking meeting notes individually – instead of using a collaborative document – means that your team will have different sources of truth. Two people can have different interpretations for the same decision. You should record notes and action items in a collaborative tool where everyone can see what was decided and discussed. 

Pro Tip

Use a meeting productivity tool like Fellow to create a single source of truth for meeting notes, agendas, and action items. 

 

After the meeting

Giving people the opportunity to share feedback about meetings will help you develop a culture of iteration and continuous improvement. If you’re constantly seeking feedback about the meetings and processes that you’re in charge of, your team will see feedback as a normal – and not threatening – part of growth. 

Pro Tip

Send out a quarterly feedback request about the meetings that you host to ensure that they stay relevant and fresh.

Is meeting feedback a common thing?

  • 23% of respondents said their organization never collects meeting feedback
  • 41% of people said this rarely happens

End the meeting once all talking points are discussed:

“Shorten meetings when possible, always have an agenda and an action items list that includes who will do what and when. Fellow can help with the agenda and action items. Not all meetings are necessary and when they are, only specific people need to be present. If the meeting can be eliminated by a quick call or Slack message, do that instead. Also, don’t waste time trying to figure out when to meet. Use Google Calendar ‘ s ‘find a time ‘ feature or scheduling tools like Acuity, Calendly, or Undock.” – Deb Lee, CPO®, Digital Productivity Coach

Meetings In A Remote Workplace

According to our research, one of the best ways to foster team communication and collaboration when managing a remote team is to schedule weekly team meetings. These meetings are an opportunity for your team to share updates, brainstorm on new ideas, and define clear priorities for the week or time period ahead.

Balance your video calls

We all know too many video calls can cause burnout and exhaustion. Leverage asynchronous communication, such as email, chat, and notes. 

Even though asynchronous communication is an essential aspect of effective remote work, 36.78% of respondents said they had never heard about “asynchronous meetings” before.

What is an asynchronous meeting?

An asynchronous meeting is a discussion or status update that happens asynchronously (not in real-time). Just like an in-person meeting, asynchronous meetings need a clear purpose, a list of attendees, and a meeting agenda. However, instead of attending the discussion live, participants use a document to collaborate on talking points and add comments at the most convenient time for them.

Top benefits of async:

  • Time-zone friendly
  • Encourages thoughtful decisions
  • Respectful of people’s time
  • Inclusive

Schedule a time to provide asynchronous updates

“If you want people to contribute updates, status update meetings are the first to go. There are certain meetings that are just more amenable to being asynchronized and stand-ups are a great example. But many people still want dedicated time to do it asynchronously. So we encourage people to put a block of time in their calendar that works for them, to provide the updates asynchronously.” – Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab Supermanagers podcast

The State of One-On-One Meetings

A one-on-one meeting is a dedicated space in your calendar for you to connect with each person reporting to you and stay in the loop about priorities, team issues, and potential roadblocks. Most importantly, it’s an anticipated moment where employees can ask in-depth questions, receive coaching on their strengths and weaknesses, and provide feedback — three things they wouldn’t be able to do in a public space or at a team meeting.

Schedule weekly check-ins with your direct reports

“If I didn’t have one-on-one meetings, I wouldn’t see my teammates. I’d be working with avatars. It can happen that you forget, there’s actually people behind the screens… that they have families… that they work in the middle of their house when a pandemic is happening. Sometimes we forget that if we work virtually and in a very asynchronous nature.” – Marcus Wermuth, Engineering Manager at Buffer Supermanagers podcast

How often do managers meet with their direct reports?

  • 64% of respondents have 1:1’s once per week 
  • 21% of respondents have 1:1’s on a bi-weekly basis

If you’re a part of the 15% of people who don’t have weekly or biweekly one-on-one meetings, we recommend increasing the frequency of check-ins with your direct reports.

Inclusion in Meetings

Meetings can have a significant impact on your team’s culture and morale. They are a forum where people come together to get to know the team, express ideas, and share feedback.

64% of people said that one of their meeting pet peeves is “one person dominating the conversation” 

Best practices for inclusive meetings:

  • Go around the room and ask the quieter team members for their opinion 
  • Foster a welcoming environment by repeating that everyone’s input matters 
  • Ask people to write down their ideas and talking points in the meeting agenda before talking through each of them 
  • Assign meeting roles – facilitator, notetaker, timekeeper – to keep the team involved

Avoid groupthink
“A lot of times in retrospective meetings, or any kind of meeting, all of a sudden, you realize there are only two people talking and there are like 10 people here. That’s something you want to try to avoid. Anything you can do to reduce groupthink in the retrospective and to encourage everybody to speak is very important.” – Simon Stanlake, SVP Engineering at Procurify Supermanagers podcast

What’s Next For the Future of Meetings?

Remote meetings will require a completely different approach from in-person meetings. This approach will involve a higher emphasis on keeping one central repository for meeting notes and key decisions since these things can no longer be discussed or clarified in office hallways.

As this study showed, people who use a collaborative meeting productivity tool tend to have a clear meeting purpose and follow up on action items. We predict that more teams will adopt technology to make their meetings better… and Fellow will be there to help!