One-on-one meetings are one of the best ways to collaborate within a busy organization. Taking advantage of the opportunity to connect directly to share thoughts, experiences, and guidance for or from another person is a great way to ensure your team is making productive progress towards your company's goals. And while one-on-ones are so crucial for successful teams of any size, they're not always prioritized in a busy work schedule.
This meeting trends report of surveyed and anonymized aggregated data comparing workweeks between February 2020 and October 2021 across over 15,000 busy professionals reveals the phenomenon of longer work days since before the COVID-19 pandemic started, and the impact of scheduling and rescheduling one-on-one meetings. We found that more than 40% of one-on-one meetings are rescheduled weekly, taking on average over 10 minutes each to coordinate new meeting times. And while meetings across the board have increased almost 70%, the fact that over 85% are organized as remote vs. in-person suggests this meeting growth may be making up for the organic conversations that used to happen naturally in an office environment.
The pandemic is redefining how professionals view the future of work and are prioritizing freedom in the modern workplace. This includes the ability to continue to work remotely and have full control and flexibility over their schedule. In order to do so, the need for tools to help adapt to the new ways of working will be critical -- including an automated calendar assistant that can help schedule, reschedule, and coordinate meetings so professionals can focus on getting back their time.
Meetings are an essential part of a healthy and productive team, but many people have felt the strain of managing a heavy meeting load while trying to balance their own work and priorities since the global shift to a more distributed, remote workforce. Let's take a look at how meetings are impacting the calendars of busy professionals:
Professionals average 25.6 meetings a week, or 5.1 per day.
Meetings have increased 69.7% since February 2020 where the average was only 15.1 meetings per week.
Professionals with 15 or more meetings a week average 39.3 meetings, a 37.9% increase since the 28.5 weekly meeting average in February 2020.
The average meeting length is 50.6 minutes long.
Meeting length average has decreased 10.9% since February 2020, previously 56.8 minutes long.
Professionals average 21.5 hours in meetings a week, over half of the "standard 40-hour workweek".
People spend 7.3 hours more in meetings since February 2020, where previously averaged just 14.2 hours in weekly meetings.
Professionals with 15 or more meetings a week average 32.9 hours in meetings, 11.4 additional meeting hours every week, up 25.3% since the 26.3 hour average in February 2020.
In just 20 short months, the amount of meetings have increased nearly 70%, where workers are forced to create an additional 7 hours in their schedules each week just to accommodate these meeting demands. While organizations are adopting more asynchronous communication tools to support remote workers, the necessity for meetings have only intensified. Workplaces are going remote for the first time, but they don't know how to do it without increasing meetings to stay connected. Meetings for the sake of meetings take away valuable working hours from the team, where adopting strategies like weekly status reports allow team members to share regular updates in a fraction of the time.
To kick off, let's define what one-on-one meetings are: a regular check-in between two people to learn about the progress of work, share feedback and answer questions. One-on-ones are often scheduled between a manager and their direct reports, but they're also used for cross-functional discussions between team members and skip-level meetings between senior management and employees further down the org chart.
Here are some one-on-one meeting statistics around time spent in meetings and frequency of scheduling:
The average professional has 5.6 one-on-one meetings a week.
One-on-one meetings have increased over 500% since before the pandemic, where professionals used to average just 0.9 per week.
Professionals with 15 or more meetings a week average 8.6 one-on-one weekly meetings, a 329% increase from 2.0 per week in February 2020.
The average person has 1.12 one-on-one meetings per day, where before the pandemic, they averaged less than one per week.
The average duration of a one-on-one meeting is 42.9 minutes.
The average worker spends 8.9% of their week in one-on-one meetings alone.
Professionals average 278 one-on-one meetings a year, compared to just 45 as of February 2020.
Professionals who average 15 or more meetings a week have 430 one-on-ones a year, over four times more than the pre-pandemic average of 100 annually.
40.4% of one-on-one meetings recur weekly, while 25% occur every other week and 18.4% are scheduled monthly.
One-on-one meetings were found to be the largest increase in the overall rise in the total number of meetings on the calendar, accounting for 79.6% of new meetings. Professionals are averaging an additional 5.9 weekly meetings since the pandemic, with 4.7 more one-on-ones scheduled on their calendars. Where coworkers could once catch up in the break room, or just through the act of passing by a team member's desk, those "water cooler meetings" are no longer happening. To have a synchronous discussion, it requires you to make time on the calendar.
Now that we've covered the frequency, duration and percent of time people spend in one-on-one meetings, let's take a look at how frequently they are rescheduled.
On average, 42.4% of one-on-one meetings are rescheduled every week.
118.7 one-on-one meetings are rescheduled per person each year.
Professionals with 15 or more meetings every week reschedule 182.3 one-on-one meetings a year, or 3.6 one-on-one meetings rescheduled every week.
Those professionals with 15 or more weekly meetings have to reschedule 53.6% more often than the average worker.
Rescheduling one-on-one meetings, or any meeting in general, isn't always a bad thing. In order to be productive and collaborative, professionals need to be flexible in their schedules to accommodate priority changes. There are also normal work and life conflicts that arise around less frequent or one-time meeting requests, and personal time off that impacts their regular schedule.
The problem is when rescheduling becomes the norm. If a manager is responsible for providing guidance, feedback and coaching to a team, it's important that they prioritize the time they need with their direct reports so they can be successful in their jobs. When rescheduling begins to impact a team's progress, it's time to take a look at defending these meeting times a little more aggressively in the calendar.
Rescheduling often goes wrong even with the best intentions. If a manager needs to reschedule at the last minute to jump into something else, it's likely they don't have the time to reschedule at that moment. And by the time the end of the week rolls around, they've simply run out of time to fit the meeting in because they waited too long to sit down and try to find it. So they either cancel their conflict, which creates strain in that world, or they cancel their 1:1, which erodes trust with their direct report. This is where many busy teams are adopting scheduling automation tools so their important meetings are rescheduled ahead of the deluge on busy calendars.
On the contrary, if a manager is finding that their meetings are continually rescheduled because their direct report needs more time to work through their tasks before connecting on their progress, then they may want to reevaluate the frequency of their meetings so both people are able to better plan their workweeks. A best practice for both attendees to adopt is constructing a rolling agenda so everyone puts in the time to think through the meeting's purpose, priorities to discuss, blockers, and the outcome they want to see. A rolling agenda is a simple and powerful way to not only prepare for high-quality 1:1s, but to do occasional "lookbacks" on previous goals and actions from prior meetings.
With over 40% of one-on-one meetings rescheduled every week, there's not always a guarantee you can find a good time, or have a good enough reason, to connect across busy schedules. Let's take a look at the cancellation trends for one-on-one meetings.
On average, 29.6% of one-on-one meetings are cancelled.
The average professional cancels 82.9 one-on-one meetings a year.
Professionals with 15 or more meetings every week cancel meetings over 50% more often than the average person, at 127.3 cancelled meetings a year, or 2.5 cancellations a week.
59.2 hours of one-on-one meetings are cancelled every year for the average professional, and 71 minutes lost due to cancellations each week.
The average worker spends over 24.4 minutes a week cancelling and rescheduling one-on-one meetings on their calendars.
It takes the average professional over 10 minutes to reschedule a meeting.
Busy professionals with 15 or more meetings each week have a higher cancellation rate than the average worker, which could be assumed due to the fact that they likely have busier schedules of meetings presenting more conflicts for finding a time to connect. There is also the internal hierarchy dynamic to consider, as direct reports may be more hesitant to insist on rescheduling if a manager asks to cancel for a week. This anti-pattern is easy to fall into, and may go unnoticed on the manager's part. But by improving communications with direct reports, and keeping up on one-on-one meetings, managers will develop a stronger understanding of the high priority work and potential blockers that a direct report may need assistance on.
There are also productive reasons for cancelling a one-on-one meeting, if both attendees feel they do not have any beneficial items to discuss. In these cases, a simple status update on progress is a productive alternative to a meeting so both people can have that time back for productive work.
With over a 27% increase in time spent in meetings, is this additional time coming out of professionals' solo working time, or personal time?
The workday has increased 1.4 hours, or 18.6% since February 2020, from 7.5 hours to 8.9 hours in October 2021 averaging a 44.6 hour workweek.
Busy professionals with 15 or more meetings average a 10.13 hour workday, or 50.7 hour workweek, increasing 13.2% from 9.0 hours in February 2020.
The average workday starts at 9:10 AM, 63 minutes earlier than the pre-pandemic start time of 10:13 AM.
The average workday ends at 5:02 PM, 52 minutes later than the 4:10 PM workday end pre-pandemic.
Professionals with 15 or more meetings average an 8:25 AM start time, 45 minutes earlier than the 9:10 AM pre-pandemic.
Professionals with 15 or more meetings average a 5:43 PM end time, 39 minutes later than the 5:04 PM end pre-pandemic.
With the additional 7.0 hours worked every week as of October 2021 compared to February 2020, that almost exactly lines up with the 7.3 extra hours spent in meetings every week, indicating that it's not heads-down working time that's being sacrificed for these professionals, it's their personal time. As we can see above, people with more meetings on their calendars are also working an additional 74 minutes a day just to accommodate the 13.8 additional meetings on their calendars every week.
Lastly, with the future of work trends pushing towards remote and hybrid work environments, let's take a look at whether meetings are held more frequently in-person or remotely in 2021:
On average, 85.2% of one-on-one meetings are remote.
0% of people attend all of their one-on-one meetings in-person.
Only 2.3% of people attend up to 30% of their meetings in person, and less than 10% of people attend up to 70% of their meetings in-person.
Even if you do work full-time in an office, organizations with a remote workforce have had to learn how to accommodate sick leave, or remote leave, as employees have faced quarantine to care for themselves or a loved one and were unable to connect in-person.
As we try to accommodate both collaboration and productivity in our busy schedules, it's important to remember that our calendars are truly unrecognizable to what they were just 20 short months ago before the global shift to a remote workforce. Incredible technologies have both emerged and matured to support communication and scheduling across distributed teams, and we need to lean into these advancements to navigate our complex work environments.
At Reclaim, we're focused on helping people create as much time as possible in their busy schedules for the things that matter most, and are kicking off a series of Meeting Trends Reports to help people understand the shifting changes in the modern workplace. Subscribe below to stay up to date on the latest future of work trends.