Few words are more menacing to today's office worker: "Reminder: Meeting … in 15 minutes."
It's a pop-up message that—not unlike a computer virus pop-up—threatens to consume your next hour or perhaps the rest of your afternoon.
One-third of Americans recently told pollsters for software firm Mersive that they attend 10 or more meetings every week. Another recent poll for Clarizen, also a software firm, found 46 percent would rather get a root canal or go to the Department Motor Vehicles, or do other unpleasant tasks, rather than attend another status meeting.
Hard data on wasted meeting time is essentially impossible to collect, but no one would blame you if you believed the oft-quoted guestimate that Americans attend 11 million meetings daily and waste $37 billion a year doing so. If I wrote a jillion hours and a $1 zillion, you'd probably believe that.
Steven G. Rogelberg, a professor of organizational science at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, said he can't talk to anyone about his research without people launching into what he calls the "meeting hell lament."
And yet, meetings are going nowhere, fast. "If there truly was an appetite to stop these things you would see that happening. It's not," Rogelberg said.
In fact, an entire industry has sprouted offering ways to wrestle with might be called "meeting inflation." Gurus sell the virtue of standing meetings, walking meetings, huddle meetings—even role-playing meetings.
Silliness aside, there's growing evidence that some of the ideas may actually make meetings more productive, if not more popular.