Everyone who loves meetings, please turn to the next page

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Fed up with meetings? Think you’d be more productive and add more to the bottom line if you actually had time to work?

Well, you’re not alone.

The latest survey from the folks at OfficeTeam showed that managers think 28 percent of meetings are a waste of time (amen, brothers and sisters), and 45 percent said that employees would be more productive if their company would ban meetings one day a week. (Find me a company that bans meetings five days a week, and I’ll give up this cushy job in journalism.)

“Businesses are operating with lean teams, which implies more people are stretched for time,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Sometimes meetings outlive their original purpose, so professionals should carefully consider whether one is warranted or if there’s a more efficient way to share the information.”

And if you simply must have a meeting, don’t get all enamored with sitting at the head of the table and listening to yourself speak.

“The adage, ‘Be brief, be brilliant, be gone,’ rings particularly true in the workplace right now,” Hosking said. “Meeting organizers and participants both play a role in keeping gatherings in check.”

(Heck, as long as the person who scheduled the dang meeting subscribes to “be brief” and “be gone,” I don’t really care about “be brilliant.”)

And just in case you’re a bit unsure about whether your meetings are worth attending, here are five signs from OfficeTeam that a meeting could be a “time waster”:

1. Everything but the kitchen sink is being covered. It’s wise to have an agenda, but one that is lengthy or unfocused could indicate that not all of the information will be relevant to every attendee. When the agenda becomes too long, organizers should consider whether it would be better to hold smaller, more focused gatherings.

2. It’ll take more than an hour. You often lose people after 60 minutes, so think carefully about scheduling a meeting that will take more than an hour of someone’s time. If there’s no way to condense, consider snacks, interactive elements or multiple speakers to keep people engaged.

3. The attendee list goes on and on. When a participant list is extensive, it may signal an overly ambitious meeting, or one where people are being invited as a courtesy, rather than because they need to attend. If you’re organizing the meeting, be sure to list people as “optional” if their presence isn’t required.

4. There’s a large PowerPoint deck involved. Visuals can be useful for reinforcing information, but it’s possible much of that information could be shared prior to the meeting. The gathering then could be used to field questions or highlight the most important data.

5. It’s a habit. Routine meetings can become, well, routine. Think about whether regular gatherings are necessary or could be held less frequently.

And one more thing, if I might be so bold as to add a sixth suggestion to the list.

Canceling the meeting but spending an hour bugging someone at his or her desk is even worse.

C’mon, let us work. There’s a recession on.

Lay on, not off?

Clint Greenleaf, CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, says companies shouldn’t freeze raises, stop 401(k) contributions or hand out pink slips.

While those strategies might save money, they don’t make money – which is what Greenleaf says businesses should be focused on.

And he’s asked his employees to embrace what he calls the “lay-on.”

“Essentially, every employee is putting in one voluntary extra hour per day at work,” Greenleaf said. “One extra hour to be used in the most advantageous way possible: finishing up projects, having a meeting with a client or vendor, assisting a co-worker, getting hands dirty working in another department. Even cleaning a desk or organizing files, if it helps improve efficiency.”

He’s done the math, and he says the numbers work. Take a look:

30 employees times one hour per day

Multiplied by a five-day work week

Equates to 150 extra hours

Divide that number by 40 hours per standard work week

The result is 3.75, the equivalent of almost four full-time employee work weeks

“Rather than cutting expenses (and revenue), we’re keeping all of our employees’ benefits and increasing productivity – and revenue as well,” Greenleaf said. “And we aren’t asking for anything big. Just a little extra time each week that is completely flexible.”

Of course, I’m hoping that all those employees working extra hours are “exempt.” If not, Greenleaf Book Group might have a slight problem with the Department of Labor concerning overtime regulations.

This might be one of those few times that a meeting is appropriate.

Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Mike.Boyd@csbj.com or 329-5206.