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Wasted time in meetings hitting office worker productivity

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Office workers are wasting many millions of hours each year in unnecessary meetings, a new study has suggested.

Research commissioned by the Centre for Economics and Business Research and Epson indicates the economy missed out on £26 billion in 2011 in lost productivity.

The report found that if these wasted hours had been spent productively this would equate to roughly 13 million more productive hours per week.

This could see an annual increase in gross domestic product of approximately 1.7 per cent.

Based upon the survey findings, UK office workers think that over half their time in meetings is wasted.

They estimate spending four hours in meetings per week and believe that two hours 39 minutes of this time is wasted.

However, respondents make up an average of one hour and 50 minutes of that wasted time later on.

This means the average office worker wastes 49 minutes per week, equating to the loss of roughly £26 billion to the UK economy.

Repetition of information, lack of focus amongst attendees and unstructured agendas are seen as being the top time-wasters.

Technology can also be a hindrance to productivity in meetings, with 16 per cent of respondents citing technology failure as a main cause for wasted time in meetings.

Some 68 per cent admitted to finding it distracting when others use tablets, smartphones or laptops during meetings and 41 per cent admit to using a tablet, laptop or smartphone in meetings for non-work-related purposes.

However, over a third (36 per cent) stated that their personal device slightly improves their productivity during meetings.

Neil Colquhoun, business sales director from Epson UK, said wasted time in meetings is something which most people can identify with but when this is seen in the context of UK GDP, the drain on productivity that ineffective meetings have “is really put in perspective”.

“The good thing is there are lots of things which businesses can do to address time wasted, starting by asking staff about their main bug bears in company meetings,” he stated.

“Senior managers can then use this feedback to identify appropriate practical steps such as introducing structured agendas, supplying more appropriate AV technology or even providing more refreshments to set their staff on course for a more productive use of their time in meetings.”