Want to waste your employees’ time? Hold a meeting

I’m lucky. I only have to go into the office one day a week. The rest of my time I spend interviewing sources, writing stories and pursuing freelance-writing projects from my home.

Businesses worry that their employees who work from home won’t be as productive as those who spend their days in the office. But I’ve found the opposite to be true. When I’m at home, I get far more done. There’s no chatting with my fellow workers. There’s no hour-long lunch break.

And, most importantly, there are no meetings.

I’ve long felt that meetings are the biggest time-wasters in the office. This belief is reinforced every time I go into my office. There are meetings about everything: health-insurance meetings, fire-drill policy meetings, new-product-launch meetings, planning meetings, forecasting meetings … It never ends.

I’m sucked into these meetings at times. I spend most of them watching the clock and imagining work piling up on my desk, my inbox filling with unanswered e-mail messages and my phone clogging with urgent voice-mail calls (or at least a request from my wife to pick up some bread on the way home from work).

Just how much time do meetings waste? According to this story in the New York Times, which references a study done by Microsoft, workers spend 5.6 hours a week on average in meetings. Worst of all is the fact that 71 percent of respondents said the meetings were a waste of time.

According to this newsletter, about 25 million meetings take place on an average day in corporate America. That’s a lot of wasted time.

So next time someone at your office calls for a meeting, pretend to be on an important phone call. Imagine how much work you’ll get done if you’re not stuck in that two-hour meeting on your company’s new e-mail system.