Meeting Inflation: What Is It & How Could It Be Affecting Your Workday?

The way we work has changed dramatically over the past few years, with some people switching to fully remote roles or hybrid options that make office spaces seem redundant. But just like unnecessary work meetings happen in office settings, remote workers have also been experiencing an influx of meetings. In fact, by 2022, there had been a 60% increase in remote meetings per employee since 2020 (via Daily Briefing). While working from home offers flexibility, the ability to work in sweatpants, and zero commute time, it can sometimes have its downsides.

Do you ever finish a video meeting that went on too long and think, "Did we really need to have a meeting for that?" Does it seem like you spend more time in meetings than doing the tasks you were hired for? This phenomenon is known as "meeting inflation," an increase in unnecessary video meetings among remote teams. An increase in meetings doesn't always lead to more productivity, though; instead, this can actually hinder the workplace entirely. 

Unnecessary meetings reduce productivity and make for longer hours

Video meetings can be immensely helpful when they have a clear purpose and agenda, but when your schedule becomes full of them, it can start to affect your workflow, taking you away from the things that need to get done. The Asana Anatomy of Work Report in 2022, which surveyed over 10,000 workers across the U.S. and six other countries, revealed that employees spent 58% of their day on work coordination rather than the jobs they were hired for.

When meetings fill up your regular work day, this may be causing you to work extra long hours. It's typical for workers to have two productivity peaks during the day, but as people have begun working from home over the years, a lot of workers have shifted to include a third peak at night, when they should be off the clock, per Microsoft. In 2021, Microsoft research manager Mary Czerwinski tracked the keyboard usage of employees at her company and noticed that about 30% of them were working in the evenings. Though this research doesn't point to specific reasons for the increase in after-hours work, an excess number of meetings that interfere with regular work hours may be part of the story. 

Separating your work and home life is a challenge for remote workers to begin with, and when your boss expects you to be ready for a surprise WFH meeting at 5 p.m. on a Friday, it certainly doesn't make things any easier. 

How to combat meeting inflation

The simple solution to meeting inflation is to reduce the number of meetings, but each team is different and may require more individualized options. The first step is speaking to your boss or manager about this issue and how it's affecting you. This will show some initiative on your end and let your boss know that you care about your productivity.

Sometimes meetings are non-negotiable, like a one-on-one with your boss. In this case, it may help your team to integrate meeting-free days into the schedule, allowing people enough time to focus on independent work without having to worry about hopping on calls. This way, no unexpected meetings will pop up on days when you need to focus.

If you're in charge of scheduling meetings, keep track of what the meetings are being used for and make sure you're inviting the right people for the relevant topic. Ask yourself how the meeting will help each person there and what they can bring to the table. Each meeting should have a purpose and an agenda in order for it to be effective. It's important to decide how many meetings are actually helpful and to eliminate the ones that don't use people's time in a productive way. This is one of the best ways to encourage your team to find a healthy work/life balance