Two hours of daily meetings is the limit, Slack survey shows


Dec 5, 2023


Spending more than two hours a day in meetings can hurt productivity, a new survey found, putting a ceiling on an element of the daily grind that many workers have come to dread.    

The survey of more than 10,000 desk workers globally from Salesforce-owned Slack Technologies found that two hours of meetings was the tipping point for most. Those who said they spent too much time on Zoom calls or in conference rooms were more than twice as likely to say they didn’t have enough time to focus on work that matters, instead of meetings. More than half of executives polled said they had too many meetings, while 27 per cent of rank-and-file workers said the same. A surfeit of meetings can force people to get tasks done after hours, something that about two out of five workers do at least once a week. The effects were the same whether the meetings were virtual or in person.

“Every minute you spend in meetings is a minute you spend not focusing,” said Christina Janzer, senior vice president of research and analytics at Slack. “Meetings do serve a purpose, but focused time is so important.”  

The research is the latest to show the negative effects of too many or unproductive meetings, which Slack, Shopify Inc. and other companies have been trying to combat with varying degrees of success. Previous research has found that large organizations waste US$100 million a year on unnecessary gatherings. Tactics for limiting meetings can vary: Twice a quarter, for example, Slack cancels all internal meetings for an entire week, and eliminates them on Fridays. Curbing Friday meetings is something other companies do as well. Shopify created a tool embedded in employees’ calendars that estimates the cost of each meeting. In some cases, businesses encourage workers to decline meetings.

The findings come as new tools are emerging that can capture the highlights of a meeting and send workers a summary — along with the agreed-upon next steps — later on. 

Surprisingly, Slack’s survey also found that a small slice of the workforce — typically younger employees or those with less than a year on the job — think they spend too little time in meetings. The survey included workers in the U.S., UK, Japan, Germany, France and Australia.