Work

67% of workers say spending too much time in meetings distracts them from doing their job

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If sitting through a useless meeting at work sounds like your worst nightmare, you're not alone.

A new report finds the majority of workers across the country feel they are being forced into counterproductive meetings and calls on a regular basis.

According to a recent survey of 1,945 workers by organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, 51% of professionals say spending too much time in meetings and on calls distracts them from making an impact at work to some extent. Another 16% say this is true to a great extent.

Overall, 67% of workers say excessive meetings keep them from getting their best work done.

"Too often, the answer to any work issue is 'let's meet,'' Cathi Rittelmann, Korn Ferry senior client partner tells CNBC Make It. "While collaboration is absolutely what drives innovation and success in today's global marketplace, it's time to get creative with how we use our time together.

"Meetings aren't necessarily bad," Rittelmann adds, "but the way we prep and lead them can sometimes derail productivity."

So just how much time are workers spending in pointless meetings every week?

About 6% of workers say they spend more than 10 hours per week attending unproductive meetings and calls, 15% say they waste between five and 10 hours each week, 34% say they wasted between two and five hours each week and 34% say they waste between one and two hours each week.

Just 11% say that all of their meetings are productive.

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Rittleman says one of the most common factors that make meetings unproductive is when the wrong people are invited, many of whom show up out of obligation rather than a desire to contribute. Indeed, 35% of workers say they would join a meeting they were invited to even if they didn't think it would be a productive use of their time.

To determine if a meeting is worthwhile, Rittleman says workers should set clear objectives and assess who actually needs to be included in order to complete those objectives.

"It's important to ensure that those involved can actually impact outcomes and contribute value," Rittelman explains. "A lack of clarity around the outcome is typically a common mistake — everyone on the call or meeting needs to understand the desired outcomes and decision-making parameters."

She continues, "Before you hit 'accept', ask some pertinent questions about what the agenda is, what the goal is and who else is attending. That gives you a chance to assess the validity of giving your time to the meeting."

When a meeting or discussion begins to veer off course, Rittleman suggests speaking up and saying something like "Are we headed in the right direction with this conversation?"

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Similar advice can be given to managers, who are often responsible for organizing and leading productive meetings.

Each manager has their own approach for how to determine if a meeting is worthwhile.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has the "two pizza rule," which means he won't go to a meeting, or even call in, if two pizzas wouldn't feed the entire group.

"Shark Tank" judge and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he "hates" meetings and prefers to correspond via email. "No meetings or phone calls unless I'm picking up a check," he said in a 2016 Thrive Global Q&A.

Rittleman says meetings can be productive so long their purpose, approach and desired outcomes are clear.

"Be clear with your attendees about what you want to accomplish. Provide context ahead of time. Humans like context, and it helps us get ready to contribute at a high level quicker." She adds that managers should have a clear agenda for themselves to make sure they are getting what they need out of their time with their direct reports.

Finally, "The bottom line is this: clear objectives, an agenda and identified roles never go out of style."

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