The Hidden Cost of Meetings: Understanding and Overcoming Meeting Recovery Syndrome

01-About Meeting Recovery Syndrome

When you finish a long meeting, or a day full of back-to-back meetings, or even a meeting without any clear outcomes, it can take a long time before you can fully recover. You may find it hard to focus on other things, and even after the meeting, you may spend time chatting with colleagues in the break room or taking a break outside to relieve stress. Please note, you may have contracted MRS (meeting recovery syndrome).

MRS is a condition that any working professional is at risk of developing because the workplace often involves endless, unproductive meetings. In recent years, psychologists have conducted experiments and studies proving that MRS is indeed a real condition. Employees who suffer from MRS often feel tired, sleepy, unproductive, and emotionally down after a meeting.

Data shows that in the United States alone, approximately 55 million meetings are held every day, and 15% of a company’s HR resources are spent on meetings. Managers, who are often the most expensive employees, spend around 23 hours per week in meetings. This means that they are more likely to get sick due to attending too many meetings.

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02-Why Do We Get Sick?

Why do we get sick? I will try to explain it with the conservation of resources theory (COR), proposed by a renowned American expert, Dr. Stevan Hobfoll. In 1989, he published a seminal article titled “Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress” in American Psychologist, laying the foundation for the COR theory. Originally proposed as a stress theory, it attempts to provide a new perspective on what stress is. According to the theory, individuals have a tendency to preserve, protect, and acquire resources. Therefore, both potential and actual resource loss threats can trigger an individual’s stress and tension (Hobfoll, 1989).Specifically, individuals may experience stress reactions in the following three situations:

  1. When the existing resources are at risk of loss;
  2. When there is an actual loss of existing resources;
  3. When efforts have been made but there is no actual increase in resources.

In other words, when a person’s resources are threatened or lost, they experience psychological stress. Some of the most valuable resources that employees bring to meetings are focus, perception, self-management, and initiative. The emergence of MRS means that productivity suddenly stops, and employees need time to recover.

Joseph Allen, a professor at the University of Utah, conducted experiments and found that employees without MRS symptoms usually rested for 10-15 minutes after a meeting before switching to the next task. However, employees with MRS symptoms need at least 45 minutes to recover.

In conclusion, whether you are an employee or a leader, you should be aware that an unproductive meeting can harm the team and individuals, and this damage goes beyond the meeting itself. Ironically and regrettably, unproductive meetings occur in organizations all the time.

03-The 22 rules for revovering from MRS

Mroz and Allen, two experts who specialize in the collaboration effectiveness of teams, conducted real experiments and proposed 22 rules for holding efficient meetings, which significantly improve MRS in the workplace. You can do a self-check and see if these good suggestions are being implemented in your meetings. If not, you can take action.

These rules include:

  1. Clearly define the purpose of the meeting: Before the meeting, make sure to clearly define the goal and expected outcome of the meeting. This will help ensure that everyone understands the purpose of the meeting.
  2. Set an agenda: Determine the agenda before the meeting and disseminate it to participants so that they can prepare. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the meeting stays on track.
  3. Allocate time: Allocate appropriate time for each agenda item and stick to the schedule. This will help ensure that the meeting stays on track and that everyone has enough time to address their concerns.
  4. Choose participants: Invite only the necessary people to attend the meeting and ensure that they can contribute. Having too many participants can make the meeting less productive.
  5. Provide supporting materials: Provide necessary supporting materials to participants before the meeting so they can prepare. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the meeting is more productive.
  6. Stay focused: Ensure that the meeting remains focused and positive. Avoid getting sidetracked by unrelated issues and keep the discussion focused on the agenda items, which Huddles can help you time each part to avoid waste too much time one the same part.
  7. Encourage open discussion: Encourage participants to share ideas and opinions to ensure everyone has a chance to speak. This will help ensure that everyone feels heard and that the meeting is more productive.
  8. Communicate clearly: Ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and expresses their ideas and opinions clearly. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the meeting is more productive.
  9. Encourage innovation: Encourage participants to come up with new ideas and solutions. This will help ensure that the meeting is more productive and that new solutions are found.
  10. Use technology: Using Huddles to help manage and organize meetings, which includes online calendars, video conferencing software, and shared document storage etc.
  11. Be punctual: Ensure that the meeting always follows the schedule. This will help ensure that everyone has enough time to address their concerns and that the meeting is more productive.
  12. Provide proactive feedback: Provide timely feedback and suggestions to participants. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the meeting is more productive.
  13. Take minutes: Ensure that meeting points and decisions are recorded and shared with participants. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the meeting is more productive.
  14. Encourage participation: Ensure that everyone has the opportunity to speak and contribute. This will help ensure that everyone feels heard and that the meeting is more productive.
  15. Have fun: Provide entertainment and stress-relieving activities between meetings. This will help ensure that everyone is relaxed and that the meeting is more productive.
  16. Encourage teamwork: Encourage participants to work together to solve problems and achieve goals. This will help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal, and that the meeting is more productive.
  17. Provide thinking time: Provide participants with time to reflect and summarize the content of the meeting. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the meeting is more productive.
  18. Follow up actions: Ensure that the next steps and timetable are established at the end of the meeting. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the meeting is more productive.
  19. Ensure follow-up: Ensure that actions are taken and the action plan is implemented after the meeting. This will help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal and that the meeting is more productive.
  20. Evaluate the meeting: Evaluate the effectiveness and value of the meeting and provide suggestions for improvement. This will help ensure that the meeting is more productive and that everyone is working towards the same goal.
  21. Ensure transparency: Ensure that participants know the progress of and results of the meeting. Huddles is a tools that can help come out the results of the meeting. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the meeting is more productive.
  22. Promote change: Encourage participants to actively promote change and improvement. This will help ensure that the meeting is more productive and that everyone is working towards the same goal.

I hope from now on, you will hold efficient meetings and avoid getting sick.


Author: Fiona Berton

Meeting Effectiveness Expert

Deeply accompanying the organizational evolution of agile transformation in enterprises.

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