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Ending the Epidemic of ‘Zombie Meetings’

 

"Zombie meetings" are an epidemic infecting companies everywhere. That's what we call meetings that have become stale and suck up company resources while going unnoticed and unattended.

The Recurring Meeting That Just Won't Die

Perhaps these sorts of meetings come from an employee who is no longer with the company: rising from the dead in the form of a recurring conference room time booked on the shared company calendar. And because killing the zombie occurrence can be difficult, the recurring meeting time stays on the calendar, and the conference room remains unused indefinitely.

Zombie meetings aren’t always the result of a former employee. Active, well-intentioned current employees can be culprits as well. What may have started as a productive daily meeting has turned stale, reeking of rotting flesh, and no one shows up anymore.

A booked, but empty, conference room may seem like no big deal, but it can have a big impact on the overall operations of a successful company. Since most employees are conditioned to move on when seeing a blocked out conference room on a shared calendar, detection can often take weeks, if not months.

A big factor contributing to the presence of zombie meetings is the increased demand on conference room space.

For an employee with pressure to accomplish tasks with a team, it is easier (and safer) to book a room with the “just in case” mentality. When there are no penalties for booking a room without using it, employees have little incentive to risk not booking a room. It’s not that employees are intentionally stealing conference rooms to create headaches for others; their actions are simply a result of playing it safe.

Putting an End to Zombie Meetings

If an employee is going to set a recurring meeting, it’s smart to set an end date – whether it’s a few weeks or even a few months out. The key to quarantining a zombie meeting is to never set a recurring meeting indefinitely. That way, when the end date is reached, the meeting organizer will be more likely to evaluate its value and whether to continue holding them.

It’s also valuable because it makes employees reconsider whether they need to set a recurring meeting at all. When it is deemed necessary, employees should try to set aside an efficient amount of time, which could be as short as 15 minutes.

This is even more important as the trend toward open workspaces continues to grow, because conference rooms become the primary location for teams to meet.

Eliminating zombie meetings is just the first step to regaining access to conference rooms and establishing more internal control. Policies can, and should, be taken to ensure that booking a room is fair, so that employees don’t feel pressured or bullied.

Fortunately, new technology – including conference room displays for showing room availability and requiring a time-limited meeting check-in – is making it easier to manage meeting spaces.

Conference room resources may continue to be constrained, but with zombie meetings and their contagious bite being eradicated from offices, companies should see positive results for employee morale and productivity.

And once “The Meeting Dead” have been removed, you’ll be quite surprised at how alive things start to look.

Note: This article originally appeared on VentureBeat.com.

Read tips for improving meeting scheduling and encouraging fair use of conference rooms in our free download, 5 Tips for Whipping Your Office Scheduling Into Shape.

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