UK workers waste a year of their lives in useless meetings

Meetings that drag on and on. Nebulous agendas. Pointless tangents. All of those wasted hours add up to a year lost in the average office worker's life, according to a new survey by

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

It's official: you are wasting your life away in meetings. A new report has surveyed 500 office workers to find out how many hours are spent in meetings, on average, and what percentage of these meetings are actually useful. 

The results show that the average office worker spends around 16 hours in meetings each week (!), and that around a quarter of this time is usually wasted. That's four hours of pointless meetings every week. Or a weekly Gone With the Wind screening.

Over a year, this works out to more than 200 hours - or almost nine full 24-hour days. Over a career, the total is even more alarming with the average worker sitting through around 9,000 hours of needless meetings - a full year and ten days spent twiddling their thumbs.

For workers in the public sector, the time spent in pointless meetings is even higher. Civil servants spend an epic 22 hours a week in meetings with one third of that time estimated to be surplus to requirements.

That means for public sector workers the career total of time wasted in pointless meetings is one full year and 322 full days. Nearly two years of gassing on the public purse. Perhaps Osborne should consider banning meetings entirely in his Wednesday Budget?

According to the office workers surveyed, time is mostly wasted in meetings by going round in circles, having irrelevant agenda items and hours of endless discussions without resolution.

One worker who took part in the study commented: 'Meetings are important but sometimes they do go on forever. You always get one or two people who just want to use meetings as a chance to hear their own voice. Then there are times when it feels like you are in a meeting about future meetings. It can be mind-numbingly tedious.'

Another respondent said: 'I work for the local authority and the number of meetings I have to attend is quite unbelievable. I'm required at attend meetings just about every day of the week. Sometimes it feels like I spend more of my time inside meetings talking about my job than I do sat behind my desk doing it.'

Want to avoid the curse of pointless meetings? Check out our handy guide to keeping them short, sweet and useful.



Picture: 'Businessman sleeping at presentation' at BigStockPhoto

Find out more about

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

A leadership thought: Treat your colleagues like customers

One minute briefing: Create a platform where others can see their success, says AVEVA CEO...

The ignominious death of Gordon Gekko

Profit at all costs is a defunct philosophy, and purpose a corporate superpower, argues this...

Gender bias is kept alive by those who think it is dead

Research: Greater representation of women does not automatically lead to equal treatment.

What I learned leading a Syrian bank through a civil war

Louai Al Roumani was CFO of Syria's largest private retail bank when the conflict broke...

Martin Sorrell: “There’s something about the unfairness of it that drives me”

EXCLUSIVE: The agency juggernaut on bouncing back, what he would do with WPP and why...

The 10 values that will matter most after COVID-19

According to a survey of Management Today readers.