Many employees are returning to the office and, tragically, finding that meetings are just as painful as ever. In a survey mmhmm conducted with 1,000 American adults employed full-time, we found that people still hate meetings because—surprise!—meetings still suck.
But they don’t have to suck, and our survey respondents told us the secrets to designing meetings people actually like. Here’s how to reinvent the modern work meeting into one workers actually want to attend.
Your meetings are still too long
Some companies have gotten better at culling meetings. Workers say there’s still room for improvement. Nearly all (93%) of American workers have complaints about their company’s typical meetings, and 45% say their meetings are too long.
Nearly half (47%) of workers say that more than half the meetings they attend could be canceled and a quarter (25%) say more than half of their meetings are useless.
Workers would rather be doing…anything else. Half (50%) of workers would rather send an email/text, voice or video message instead of having a meeting. 42% of workers say the highlight of a work meeting is if it’s canceled, and yet 43% of workers don’t feel empowered to suggest canceling meetings.
And a surprising number of workers are fighting fire with fire. Nearly two in five (39%) workers admit they’ve booked new meetings to try to get out of existing meetings.
How to make meetings valuable
The good news is that nearly half (49%) of workers say that most meetings help them be more productive. But that means the other half don't. So what's the key to making meetings more valuable?
Workers say a meeting is valuable when they get answers to their questions (64%), it ends with clear outcomes or next steps (61%), and there’s a clear agenda (59%). Only 16% said a meeting feels valuable when snacks are provided.
Getting better attendance starts with a mindful calendar title. While nearly two-thirds of American workers respond positively to conversational titles like “catch-up” (67%), “chat” (60%), and “touchbase” (59%), almost a quarter of respondents (24%) dread the intimidating “discussion” invite.
The new rules of video meetings
Two-thirds (68%) of workers think it’s great that meetings have become more casual since the pandemic. Still, there’s an opportunity to make our behavior relevant for the hybrid video era.
1. Don’t over-invite. The ability to have 100+ people on a video call is a bug, not a feature. On average, American workers say 10 people is too many for a work meeting — nearly two-thirds (63%) of workers say meetings should never have more than 7 people in attendance. Having fewer people in a meeting makes it more likely that everyone can participate, stay focused, and reach decisions.
2. Join on time. Half (52%) of office workers say that any amount of tardiness to a work meeting is irritating. On average, American workers start to get irritated if meeting attendees are still trickling in after 3 minutes.
3. Don’t interrupt. We know sometimes the internet lags, but be mindful of stepping on toes. 79% of workers say talking over or interrupting others is unacceptable in meetings. Use the “raise hand” function (or actually raise your hand) before you speak.
4. Mind your background. 65% of workers say having a messy background in a virtual meeting is unacceptable. 60% of workers say having children or pets in the background is unacceptable. And 53% say taking the call from a car or outdoors is unacceptable. This seems a little harsh to us. We recommend a virtual background so the haters never have to know.
5. Keep the food off camera. 41% of workers say eating or snacking during a meeting is unacceptable.
Have more conversations, not meetings
The best way to transform a meeting is to move away from the monologues and increase dialogue. Think about transforming single-speaker, large group “meetings” into smaller, less intimidating “conversations.” Half (51%) of workers say that conversations are better than meetings for moving work forward.
Big meetings can be intimidating for the less assertive voices—31% of workers prefer 1:1 conversations to share their thoughts or input on a decision. Survey respondents said the best ways to make a meeting feel like a conversation include inviting everyone to speak up (51%) and having a small group of people (50%).
mmhmm is the hybrid video app built to enhance your presence and presentation, improving communication for the way we work now. Set your meetings up for success in a virtual environment that encourages conversations, brings personality forward, and helps you replace lecture-style meetings with recordings that save everyone time and grief.
mmhmm conducted this research using an online survey among n=1,000 adults age 18+ in the United States who are full-time office/computer workers. The sample was equally split between gender, with a spread of age groups represented. Data was collected from July 18, 2023 to July 26, 2023.