Is it time to ban meetings in favour of the cloud?on 4 December 2014
This year, a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that one of the top concerns for 56 percent of small businesses in the UK is to improve their operating efficiency. No doubt larger businesses feel the same.
So how exactly can they achieve it? One thing that might arguably have the biggest impact on any company’s desire to improve time management would be to ban meetings.
Sounds harsh, right? Well it’s true that we Brits have an obsession with meetings. Yet all the statistics suggest meetings are major time wasters:
• The average office worker spends around 16 hours a week in meetings, or the equivalent of 9,000 hours over the course of an average career, says a survey by officebroker.com.
• Perhaps unsurprisingly, the same survey suggests civil servants spend even more time in meetings (22 hours a week, with most admitting their time is often wasted in endless discussions that rarely get resolved).
• A Citrix survey also suggests UK office workers believe more than a third of meetings are a complete waste of time, with IT workers complaining half of all the meetings they attend are unproductive.
• There again, pity those poor chief executives who have to spend about a third of their working life in meetings, say London School of Economics researchers.
Hours of preparations
But there’s more to this problem than the meetings themselves. There are all those necessary preparations for meetings too: the memos, the emails, the conversations between heads of department and their teams, the hours of research to do beforehand... It all adds up. You’ve got to wonder how any work ever gets done in companies with a deep-rooted meetings culture.
The problem hasn’t gone completely unnoticed by managers. Ian Baxter, chairman of logistics firm Baxter Freight, told The Telegraph earlier this year that these pointless meetings have to stop.
“As a nation we waste millions of hours in pointless meetings,” he said. “People fall too easily into the idea of having a meeting without considering what they are hoping to achieve from that meeting. We should question the meetings culture in this country and we should ban meetings that don’t have a purpose and aren’t properly managed.”
That’s all very well, but what’s the alternative?
According to conference call service provider Powwownow, UK SME businesses are potentially wasting £637,000 a year on meetings that could be held via a much cheaper conference call (well they would say that, wouldn’t they?).
“Conference calls are a great example of a better way to cut corners, without impacting business output,” says Robert Gorby, Powwownow’s marketing director.
However, conference calls could be accused of being guilty of time wasting too, suggests a report by market researchers IBOPE Zogby International.
According to the survey, 23 percent of the time spent on conference calls is wasted. How? By waiting for everyone to dial in to the call, waiting for latecomers, dealing with background noise and other interruptions – to name but a few – all of which business people frustrated by spending countless days in back-to-back conference calls will recognise only too well.
Enter the cloud
The real solution is to turn meetings culture on its head. And that means thinking – and working – differently. Not just differently, but smartly. In other words, the answer is in the cloud.
With online communications technology such as Glasscubes, co-workers can collaborate easily by sharing information instantly via the cloud.
There’s no need to round up your team members for a face-to-face meeting. Co-workers and clients from different buildings, cities or even countries can keep in touch quickly and effectively, without stepping outside their office or even picking up a phone.
Instead of having a meeting on any given issue, why not simply start a discussion in Glasscubes? Just post a new message to get the ball rolling, notify the team members involved (Glasscubes includes an automatic email notification function where you can select who you need to notify), and wait for them to add their comments, feedback and questions.
Another advantage is that nobody has to take notes because the entire discussion thread is saved. So anyone with access to the relevant Glasscubes workspace can easily check who said what, and when (discussions are searchable too, which can be incredibly useful).
Then, with Glasscubes transparent task management area it’s really easy to view your group’s progress by capturing and displaying all actions, deadlines and completed activities from one central space.
If you do need to set up a quick conference call, there’s a free conference calling facility that’s easy to organise in Glasscubes: simply schedule and invite the required members of your team directly within your Glasscubes account.
There’s even a handy function to add a meeting to your workspace’s calendar that takes the effort out of organising the time, place and attendees.
But only if you really must.
Glasscubes is a highly cost effective web-based collaboration tool for businesses. Find out more about how it could save you time and money by calling +44 (0)20 3274 2310.