Learn more about Apollo 21

The Real Cost of Internal Meetings

While meetings can be an important part of collaboration and communication, too many meetings can have serious consequences. From unhappy employees to delayed decision making, every internal meeting carries an often underestimated total cost. 

Did you know…

  • The average time workers spend in meetings has increased by a whopping 252% over the course of the pandemic.
  • In general, office workers spend about 18 hours per week in meetings — that’s 45% of a 40-hour work week!
  • That amounts to roughly $25,000 per employee, per year. That adds up to billions of dollars in employee time. Every year. 

That’s insane, right??

Our team at Apollo 21 has worked together long enough that we make a point of limiting meetings where possible. After years of working together, we have developed a strong understanding of how team members best receive information. And, with so many of our team being engineers, we respect the need for large swaths of time to get deep work done. 

That said, we’re also aware that some discussions simply cannot happen on Slack or by email and a meeting is necessary. This need grows as our team size increases. Yet because we’ve been used to so few meetings for so long, we are perhaps overly aware of any new meeting that shows up on the calendar. Our default reaction to a new invite is typically “...is this meeting the best use of our time?”  

If enough folks on the team ask the same question enough times, inevitably someone begins to formulate a solution for the problem using technology. We recognize the importance of collaboration, and meetings are a great way to foster collaborative work. But we’re also protective of our company resources and the well-being of our team members.

That’s why we built the Meeting Cost Calculator.

In this blog post, we'll explore the real costs of internal meetings. If you’re not already familiar, hopefully these thoughts will offer you a better understanding of the impact felt across your organization every time you send a meeting invite or start drafting an agenda.

The Financial Cost of Internal Meetings

The financial cost of meetings is an important consideration for any company. While meetings are essential for collaboration and communication, they can also be a significant expense. Think about it: depending on your business and billing, getting a CEO and a few key VP’s in a room for an hour can cost $10,000 or more

To illustrate the financial cost of a meeting, let's take a hypothetical example. Say your company holds a weekly meeting that lasts for two hours and has ten attendees each of whom are billed at an hourly rate of $50. The cost of your meeting is $1,000 per week. Over the course of a year, the company would be spending $52,000. For ONE weekly meeting. Now multiply this by an average of 18 meeting hours per week. Needless to say, the financial costs can quickly add up.

It's also important to note that the financial cost of a meeting isn’t limited to the time spent in the meeting itself. There are also indirect costs: time spent preparing for the meeting and the time spent following up on action items after the meeting. And often people are involved in the preparation and/or outcomes of these meetings who aren’t invited to the meeting itself. These compounding factors make actual costs of meetings difficult to quantify — unless you have software made to do just that.

Overlooked Costs of Internal Meetings

Wasted Resources

In addition to the financial cost of internal meetings, companies must also consider the wasted resources that result from too many meetings. When employees are spending a significant portion of their day in meetings, they have less time to work on other important tasks. Perhaps even more importantly, meetings are an interruption. Overall, this can lead to delays in projects, missed deadlines, and decreased productivity.

One way to understand the impact of wasted resources is to consider the opportunity cost of meetings. Opportunity cost refers to the value of the next best alternative that is foregone when a particular decision is made. In the case of meetings, the opportunity cost is the value of the work that could have been done by employees during the time that they were in the meeting.

For example, let's say an employee spends two hours in a meeting. During that time, they could have been working on a project that would have generated $500 in revenue for the company. This means that the opportunity cost of the meeting was $500. If multiple employees are attending the meeting, the opportunity cost quickly adds up.

Disruption to Employee Workflow

As noted above, another negative consequence of too many internal meetings is the disruption of employee workflow. It’s difficult to solve complex problems in 30-minute chunks of time squeezed between meetings. We’re acutely aware of this issue in the technology space as executing design and engineering tasks both require blocks of uninterrupted time during which team members can find their flow. 

When employees are interrupted throughout the day for meetings, it shatters this focus and limits productivity. Interruptions will lead to decreased quality of work and missed deadlines. In turn, these issues often lead to reprimands from management which builds further animosity. Ultimately this situation can lead to a downward spiral across an organization.

It’s important to remember that, whether a meeting lasts fifteen minutes or four hours, employees have to stop what they are doing to attend. In most cases, attendees must spend a little time preparing for the meeting or handling follow up tasks that resulted from the meeting. Small disruptions are still disruptions.

Decreased Creativity and Innovation

One of the less obvious but significant negative consequences of too many internal meetings is decreased creativity and innovation. When employees are constantly in meetings, they may not have enough time to engage in creative thinking, come up with new ideas, or explore alternative solutions. This can lead to a stagnant work environment where everyone is just going through the motions, which can have a significant negative impact on the company's overall performance and long-term success.

One of the key reasons why too many meetings can stifle creativity and innovation is that they can be mentally exhausting. Employees who are constantly attending meetings may not have enough mental energy or time to engage in creative thinking or brainstorming sessions. Instead, they may feel mentally drained and may be more likely to rely on the same old ideas and solutions, rather than exploring new ones.

Moreover, when employees are attending too many meetings, they may not have the time to engage in other activities that can stimulate creativity and innovation, such as reading industry publications, attending conferences, or collaborating with colleagues on side projects. These activities can help employees to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies and expose them to new ideas and ways of thinking.

Reduced Morale and Engagement

Holding too many meetings can lead to burnout and disengagement among employees. When employees feel like they're spending all their time in meetings, they’re more likely to feel demotivated and disengaged from their work. This issue is exacerbated when meetings are not well-organized with clearly defined goals and tasks. Further, if there are too many attendees, employees may feel like their contributions aren’t being heard or taken seriously — or worse, that their time is being wasted. 

When employees are constantly in meetings, they may not have the time or mental energy to focus on their core responsibilities and projects. This can lead to reduced morale, lower productivity, and increased turnover. Ultimately, these feelings create stress among employees which will, in turn, drive some to look for new jobs where their time is more highly valued.

Delayed Decision Making

Meetings can often lead to decision-making by committee instead of tangible forward momentum. The result is delayed projects and missed opportunities. Companies should be decisive about the purpose of individual meetings and make sure that teams are making decisions and taking action, rather than just talking about things.

If you find your team is consistently talking in circles during recurring meetings, you may have fallen into the trap of analysis paralysis. This happens when too much time is spent discussing and analyzing a problem, and not enough time is spent taking action to solve it. Remember, discussion ≠ productivity. Focus on leaving meetings with small, clearly defined action items that will, in aggregate, build forward motion.

Furthermore, when too many meetings are held, the decision-making process can become convoluted and confusing. If there are too many attendees, it can be difficult to reach a consensus, and important decisions may be delayed or postponed.

Poor Communication

While meetings are often intended to improve communication within a team or organization, they can actually have the opposite effect. When meetings are held too frequently, they can lead to communication overload. This happens when too much information is shared or too many topics are discussed, and attendees may struggle to keep up or remember what was discussed. This can lead to confusion and miscommunication, which can have serious consequences for the success of a project or the company as a whole.

Additionally, when meetings are poorly structured or managed, they can become unproductive and even counterproductive. Attendees may feel like their time is being wasted, and they may disengage from the discussion or fail to participate fully. We often hear this referred to as “multitasking” (hint: this is another way of saying “not paying attention”). 

Meetings that happen without an agenda can become free-for-all discussions that do not result in any actionable directives. Even the most well-intended meeting can become a source of confusion instead of a forum for clear communication.

Is Another Internal Meeting Really Worth It?

We aren’t suggesting that all internal meetings should be banished (although some teams, like Shopify, have taken drastic measures) or are inherently bad for business. Far from it. Many internal meetings help teams and organizations grow into the future. Some internal meetings are crucial and many key business decisions come from internal collaboration and conversations.

We ARE suggesting that business leaders need to take into account the impact of every “Daily Standup” or “Quick huddle about subject X” on their teams. And everyone on your team should understand that meetings have a financial impact — or better yet, see exactly what that financial impact looks like. That’s why we started building Meeting Cost Calculator. 

In reducing the number of meetings and making sure they're well-planned and efficient, companies can create a more productive, happier, and engaged workforce. By using Meeting Cost Calculator, companies can better understand the true cost of their meetings and make more informed decisions about how to allocate their resources. 

Subscribe for more updates and news
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.