Inside Business: Hidden costs of all those meetings

Ever met anybody who enjoyed business meetings? No, neither have I. In fact, one of the reasons most commonly cited by those joining the rush into teleworking is the opportunities it provides for doing "real" work, rather than pontificating.

According to a survey just published, three out of four UK company bosses think that as much as half of the time spent in meetings is unproductive and more than one-third feel that they are not cost-effective. With the average executive every week attending four to five meetings that each last about two hours, it is easy to see how the same study calculates that they waste at least two hours of each working day. Given the level of executive salaries, that is equivalent to pounds 130,000 a year.

But time spent in meetings is not the only reason that business people work long hours - an average of 53.6 hours a week, according to the Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments in London, which produced the survey.

Some 37 per cent of the 2,000 business people, spanning legal, property, accountancy, banking and PR/advertising say the biggest time-waster is interruptions from colleagues, 28 per cent blame sorting out other people's problems, and 13 per cent cite problems with information technology. Even those that do manage their time (a claimed 87 per cent) do it for their own benefit to reduce stress - rather than to increase their usefulness.

Patrick Maw, general manager of the Athenaeum, said that the study indicated that executives needed to manage their schedules to "alleviate these distractions". He advocated getting out of the office to write important documents or holding meetings off-site - presumably at hotels like his own.

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