Face it: We all waste a good amount of time at work. Whether intentional or not, the simple truth is that there are good stretches of time during the work day where we are not really producing anything of value for employers, and are probably simply hoping to kill some clock in order to go home. It happens, we’re all human.
While lost productivity may be unavoidable to some extent, there are things that businesses can do to help alleviate the amount of money they’re losing in wasted time. For example, by examining a company’s internal policies or time management, and improving upon it, there is a vast amount of money to be saved. Business meetings — whether they be internal with management, employees or external with consultants or clients — can actually end up being a huge source of lost productivity.
Software creation company Atlassian has dug into the numbers, and it turns out that small businesses waste up to $37 billion annually in costs related to unnecessary meetings. That means every time you call the team into the conference room to run through another PowerPoint presentation, your company is losing money. Not only that, but employees aren’t getting much out of these meetings anyway. Atlassian says that on average, employees can spend up to 31 hours per month in meetings being unproductive, and that large percentages of them either did other work, daydreamed, or even slept through them.
This is just one particular area in which productivity can be lost, but it’s important because it’s an area where businesses and management actually have the ability to make a change. If you’re running a small business and feel the need to constantly be pulling people into your office, or bringing out the overhead projector, think of that time you’re using up in terms of dollars and cents. $37 billion is a big number, and it takes a lot of wasted hours on the clock to reach that level.
The notion that meetings can be unproductive and costly is not dawning on researchers and business leaders for the first time, although seeing a dollar figure in the tens of billions in lost capital is a bit of a wake up call. Researchers from Oklahoma State University breached into the subject back in 2001, and came to the ultimate conclusion that meetings were not only wasteful in terms of personnel resources, but also extravagantly expensive.
“Most organizations spend between 7-15% of their personnel budget on meetings,” the Oklahoma State study reads:
“One California company with a $350 million personnel budget estimates that they spend $30 million annually on meetings. Mosvick and Nelson performed a detailed value analysis of 7000 managers and technical professionals at one location within a major company that revealed an over $54 million annual loss due to ineffectively planned and conducted meetings.”
Now, keep in mind that this was roughly 15 years ago, and those costs have likely increased significantly since then.
Meetings, of course, are oftentimes a necessary evil. There are definitely instances in which meetings are required or even beneficial to an organization, but those aren’t really a waste of productivity — not totally, anyway. And streamlining meetings is definitely not the only way that businesses can get more utility out of their employees. A solid workflow and time management strategy that puts a team and an organization’s strengths to work can also pay big dividends.
Harvard Business School discovered that finding ways to delegate low-importance tasks to others can help free up more skilled workers’ time — and thus increase their productivity. HBS says that through their studies, it was found that knowledge workers in several organizations reported that 41% of their time was being spent on tasks that could easily be handed off to someone else. By streamlining for more efficiency, those workers could likely produce much more value for their employers if they had less on their plates. Much like useless meetings, menial tasks can also be a significant resource drain on businesses.
So, what can small businesses do to create and keep more of the value they create? Taking a good, hard look at how often and how long you’re meeting with your internal teams is a great place to start. Companies are leaving billions literally sitting, at the table, daydreaming away, while those resources and assets — your employees — could be putting their time to much better use. By examining your own internal procedures, there may be an untapped source of value, or retained value, that was previously flying under the radar.