The average office worker across the UK, spends the equivalent of 208 hours per year in meetings¹.  But, when it comes to finding out how productive some of these meetings actually are, a new study reveals environments and different personalities can have a significant impact on performance output levels.  Furthermore, the research also suggests that almost half of the nation (43%) leave most meetings feeling they were pointless.

The ‘Meetings Psychology Study’ was commissioned by Radisson Blu, one of the world’s leading hotel chains, to discover what impact different styles of meetings had around idea generation, intellect and judgement. Patrick Fagan, an Associate Lecturer in Consumer Behaviour at Goldsmiths University undertook the study with twenty five groups of volunteers. Each group of five, was placed in one of three everyday work scenarios, which included a video conference call, a standard meeting room² and an ‘enhanced’³ meeting room environment.  They were asked to complete three activities relating to creativity, intellective and judgment tasks, and their level of engagement and mood were also monitored, as well as their claimed and actual performance.

While all participants claimed their performance would not differ across different environments and that their group’s performance would be equal, the actual data did not support this. The results concluded that when meeting face to face in an enhanced meeting room, idea generation produced a return on investment that was 61% higher than a video conference call, and 31% higher than a standard meeting room.  And while this isn’t surprising, it was the quality of the ideas produced in this space that were noticeably greater than the other scenarios.

Where the aim of the task was to make tricky judgments about business or management, the best type of meeting environment, is a standard meeting room.  And video conferencing was the best scenario for businesses when it comes to having to think rigidly and debate less – meaning that fewer ideas are able to be creatively discussed when participants are not meeting face to face.

Additionally, the biggest gripes about meetings were also highlighted in further research conducted by Radisson Blu.  To support Patrick Fagan’s study, a survey of 2,000 UK adults⁴ revealed that the most annoying habits conducted by other colleagues in meetings were having a dominant person in the room that always shouts the loudest (40%), and people not turning up on time (24%).  Additionally, a quarter of UK office workers (25%) were most annoyed by meetings running late.

Furthermore, when it came to disclosing what their own worst attributes were during conference calls and colleague get-togethers, almost a quarter (23%) of the nation admitted to being easily distracted and bored, and a further 13% admitted to just making meaningless doodles instead of taking notes during conference calls. However overall, over two thirds (65%) of those polled still thought face-to-face meetings were more productive than conference calls.

Patrick Fagan commented: “This study brings up some important facts for businesses to consider with regards to physical environment in which they operate and, importantly how they should encourage teams to communicate with each other. Our study showed that workers trying to come up with answers to business problems on a conference call, are likely to be more submissive to other workers, due to an inability to judge their disposition.  There also appears to be a reduced ability for interpersonal interaction on a video conference call, and a more rigid, inflexible and practical state of mind.  This can lead to reduced effectiveness and ultimately, a low return on investment for the meeting.”

Malcolm Rann, Regional Director, Radisson Blu UK added: “There has been a growth in remote working across the UK and Ireland, and with businesses having offices located in different parts of the country, video and teleconferencing has become a big part of daily life.  This study demonstrates that in order to be productive and most effective, there is still a genuine reason to make meetings face-to-face, but to also be aware of the different types of personalities in the room and how to handle those situations.  At Radisson Blu, we want to ensure our meeting rooms and event spaces continue to be relevant and supportive of the needs of businesses everywhere.”