Meeting Fatigue: How Too Many Meetings Have Employees Feeling Enraged Instead of Engaged - American Society of Employers - Lauren Cromie

Meeting Fatigue: How Too Many Meetings Have Employees Feeling Enraged Instead of Engaged

Are you sick of your calendar being full of meetings and never having time to get anything done? Well, you are not alone. Employees now attend an average of 8-17 meetings a week which is three times the number of average meetings than before the pandemic; studies show a 252% increase since February 2020.

Employees rate 71% of their meetings as a waste of time, and even worse, only 11% of meetings are considered productive. 45% of workers are overwhelmed by the number of meetings they have. 55% of workers admit to checking their email during virtual meetings. 47% of workers say meetings are their number one waste of time, and even Microsoft agrees! So, how did things get so out of hand?

Experts say it starts with a lack of trust in the team. Employees are not confident in their own or their colleagues’ abilities. This can cause leaders to use meetings as a way of keeping tabs on and micromanaging employees. Some leaders prefer to work and communicate via meetings and their lack of consideration for others’ preferences can take up unnecessary room on the calendar. There are even some cases where leaders or individuals use meetings as a lazy way to shift accountability or responsibility to another person or group.

Many say that the increase in meetings came from a need to overcompensate during the pandemic for virtual work and lack of in-person collaboration. Whatever the reason, meetings have become a default solution for all challenges or updates, but this has instead caused a new problem, too many meetings. We have moved to this “Meeting Mania” and the side effects are detrimental. Companies can expect wasted salary dollars for unnecessary meetings (about $400 per meeting), not to mention billions of hours in wasted productivity. Meeting overload is causing fatigue, anxiety, and frustration and is mentally draining for employees. This can cause them to be rude and impatient to each other, clients, and customers as well as create a hostile workplace environment. The increase in meetings has caused a decrease in productivity, more delayed projects, an increase in burnout, demotivation in employees, and even impeded progress in some cases.

What is it that employees want out of meetings and when should we actually be having them?  Employees say meetings should be a place where they receive critical information to help them do their jobs better or to solicit and give feedback to people they work with. Meetings shouldn’t just be information sharing; meetings should be reserved for discussion, brainstorming ideas, and involving others in decision making. Employees need ample time with no distractions to complete “deep work.” They don’t have the time or energy to do this because of meeting overload. Between preparing for meetings, sitting in meetings, and the time spent catching up on missed emails, there is just not enough hours in the day for actual work. So, how can we fix this?

As a general recommendation, you should cap your meetings at 20% of your work week. If you are spending more time than that in meetings, you need to make a change. If you cannot cancel the meeting, there are some simple ways to make your meetings more effective and efficient. Ensure you have clearly stated the roles and responsibilities for those attending and set the goal and an agenda and stay in line with it. It is also important to stick to your time limit and lead by example. Show up to and start meetings on time and end on time. In fact, most experts say aim to end a little early! This is really about respecting our own time and others. To this point, make meetings shorter; 30-minute meetings are best but if you are going to go longer make sure you give 10 minutes of break for every 50 minutes of work or meetings. Be brief and try to motivate others to do the same as this helps people prioritize essential information so they can concisely communicate and make decisions more efficiently. Create a “Parking Lot” area in your meetings, to list notes on unrelated items to be discussed later. This makes people feel heard without derailing the meeting and still sticking to the agenda and goal.

Only invite necessary people and give employees the autonomy to accept or decline meetings to their discretion. As a general guideline, aim to make meetings smaller and abide by The Two Pizza Rule, coined by Jeff Bezos: If you can’t feed the group with only two pizzas then you have too many people in the meeting.  Give pre-meeting work ahead of time to allow employees to digest and process the information at their own pace and so they can come prepared to the meeting with questions and ideas. Examples of this can be articles, recordings, and PowerPoints. Companies who have implemented this strategy have seen an increase in participation and the giving of thoughts and ideas from employees who may normally remain quiet in meetings. Adding asynchronous collaboration, like using google docs, Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc. has also helped organizations obtain feedback from a wider variety of employees than when feedback is requested in meetings often times with other agenda topics.

For the most effective and efficient meetings, you should also provide a re-cap of the meeting with the last 5 minutes and send out a follow-up with notes, tasks, and any “parking lot items.” This is a great place to utilize meeting recording technology so you can send out a recording to attendees and those unable to attend. Never schedule back-to-back meetings for yourself or your staff.

Lastly, encourage feedback. As you work towards changing your organization’s culture around meetings, ask for feedback and respond and make improvements accordingly. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Was this meeting effective or a waste of time?” and be open to and embrace differences.

If you are skeptical, look at a TechSmith, a screen capture software and productivity solutions company based out of Lansing who has had some success. They canceled all meetings for an entire month and moved to only asynchronous collaboration. They wanted to see how productive they could be without all the meetings they were having and if they were even necessary. After that month, they moved to having a “no-meetings” day each week. Other companies that have adopted similar policies and implemented the above suggestions have seen an increase in productivity and communication. They said a 40% decrease in meetings lead to a 71% increase in productivity and an 80% decrease in meetings lead to a decrease in employee’s feelings of being micromanaged by 74%.In conclusion, a world with absolutely no meetings is probably impossible but we can strive to obtain the delicate balance of collaboration and individual productivity by making sure we limit our meetings and make them as effective and efficient as possible for the health of our employees and our organizations.



Agbede, T. (2023, December 20). Too many meetings at work? here is how to scale back. Notta.

Elvira, M. (2023, June 20). Unleashing productivity: The pitfalls of too many meetings and the power of Brevity. LinkedIn.

International, H. (n.d.). Fix meeting fatigue and prevent too many meetings in 5 steps. Fix Meeting Fatigue and Prevent Too Many Meetings in 5 Steps.

Smith, M. (2023, May 9). The no. 1 workplace distraction that kills productivity, according to Microsoft. CNBC.

Steinhorst, C. (2023, November 10). Too many meetings: A best practice guide for improved meeting culture. LinkedIn.

Thomas, M. (2024, January 24). Excessive meetings are a drain on your company: Here’s how to fix it. Forbes.

Vozza, S. (2023, February 15). What Techsmith learned from canceling meetings for a month. Fast Company.


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