Efficiency and productivity are integral to the future commercial success of businesses, and the ability to retain engaged and productive staff. But to foster an efficient and productive team, businesses must allow their employees the time to not just ‘get the job done’ but participate in enriching activities.  

After a survey revealed that 70% of employees were spending time in meetings they felt they didn’t need to be in, we conducted a full review of our operating model at Reckitt Hygiene ANZ. We saw an opportunity to reduce the amount of time our teams spent in meetings, we reviewed our operating model across four key variables;

  1. The purpose of the meeting: is it needed?
  2. Frequency of Meeting: is it needed so often?
  3. Length of Meeting: is it needed for so long?
  4. Number of Attendees: is everyone needed?

This review resulted in a major reduction in hours, freeing up time to get the work done – improving productivity – but importantly, allowing time for our Reckitt employees to involve themselves in people and purpose-led initiatives.

Given how dramatically work patterns have changed in the past 12 months, this initiative allowed us to renew our previous operating model to ultimately futureproof and adapt it for the new world we operate in and continue the momentum we’d built as a business. Integral to the change, was the establishment of The Process Council – one of three councils designed to transform the way we do business and foster culture – which spearheaded the initiative freeing up time for employees across the business.

By tapping into the work patterns of our employees and listening to their needs, our managers were enabled to challenge the status quo and assess meetings across our entire operating model with the goal of reducing time spent in unnecessary meetings and increasing overall productivity.

We began with the goal of removing four hours of meetings, per person, per week to reduce time spent in meetings. By removing 192 hours per year per person, we subsequently saved 24,960 hours across our business and 520 hours per week across the business. In addition to reducing the overall number of meetings we also focused on how to conduct an effective meeting.

We established six key principles which would ensure that any meetings which did remain through this process were run effectively. These included;

  • All meetings to have a clear agenda
  • Concise three slide pre-reads
  • Reducing the length of a meeting (reducing a one hour meeting to 50 minutes)
  • Agree on clear actions and minutes and send within 48 hours

Cutting down 25,000 hours’ worth of meetings was a significant achievement for the Reckitt Hygiene Process Council, and has the potential of paving the way for other businesses to adopt to improve employee engagement and productivity. By working smarter, and not harder, we’ve achieved this goal across our 130 employees and the six simple changes have received incredible feedback from all levels of the business.

In order to meet the demands of their employees, businesses must pivot away from unnecessary meetings, without compromising on company efficiencies. Reducing meeting times has the long-term potential to enhance employee efficiency and provide space and time for more productive activity, and in this new hybrid way of working, I encourage all companies to review how they can make meetings more efficient for their employees.

Nicola Williamson is trade strategy and category director at Reckitt Australia and New Zealand.