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Wasted time in meetings cost the economy £26bn in 2011

New research reveals repetition of information, lack of focus amongst attendees and unstructured age

A survey of over 1000 UK office workers – carried out by Opinion Matters for Epson and supported by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) – found that workers waste two hours and 39 minutes in meetings every week.

The Cebr estimates that the average office worker makes up for 1:50 of the wasted time, but still loses a net total of 49 minutes per week, equating to the loss of roughly £26bn to the UK economy.

The research found that this wasted time totals roughly 13 million lost productive hours per week, which, if worked, would lead to an annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately 1.7 per cent.

It found that repetition of information, lack of focus amongst attendees and unstructured agendas were seen as the top time-wasters.

In the survey, 16 per cent of respondents cited technology failure as a main cause for wasted time in meetings, while 68 per cent find it distracting when others use tablets, smartphones or laptops during meetings.

Some 41 per cent admit to using a tablet, laptop or smartphone in meetings for non-work-related purposes. However, 36 per cent stated that their personal device improves their productivity during meetings.

With figures showing that GDP fell 0.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, following a 0.3 per cent decline at the end of 2011, there is certainly a need to address the reasons behind this wasted time.

The research also highlights that 49 minutes are wasted in meetings not made up for later; one in five senior managers and directors spend 10 hours or over per week in meetings; the average amount of time it takes for people’s attention to drift in a meeting is 11 minutes.

Neil Colquhoun, business sales director at Epson UK, said:

Wasted time in meetings is something which most of us can identify with but when this is seen in the context of UK GDP, the drain on productivity that ineffective meetings have is really put in perspective.

Daniel Solomon, economist at Cebr, said:

Even though office workers are only about 60 per cent of all people in employment, the average office worker contributes more to GDP than the average non-office worker. Hence, the 49 minutes wasted in meetings per week has a substantial impact on GDP.

With the UK experiencing the first double dip recession since the 1970s, it is vital that UK businesses look to address their policies on meetings and consider ways that these meetings could become more effective. This research suggests that if meetings became more efficient, GDP could be increased without anyone having to spend any more of their day at the office.