It’s difficult to think of anything that wastes your precious time more than attending meetings.
Working parents around the country lament the fact that they don’t have enough time to spend with their children. But if you add up how much time those same working parents spend travelling to, waiting for and sitting around in pointless meetings you’d be shocked at the results. A huge chunk of the working population waste days – weeks even – every year sitting in meetings. And for what? To talk about things that could have been discussed on the telephone or online, or to listen to things that don’t really concern them at all. What a waste!
Sometimes in any business you need the face-to-face collaborative communication that only a meeting can provide. But the truth is those occasions are much rarer than you might think. These days days, thanks to the internet and the wonders of digital communications technology, there’s usually an alternative that would work just as well, if not better, would be quicker, and would prevent participants having to travel long distances to attend. Ireland just hasn’t been open to exploring the opportunities. From a parent’s perspective that means an unacceptable amount of time pointlessly lost – time they could have used working productively on other things, which in turn means they might have been able to clock off on time for once, and make it home in time to read the kids their bedtime story. For businesses, of course, it represents a massive waste of precious resources at a time when every enterprise in the country is strapped for cash. Where’s the sense in that?
There’s this bizarre obsession in Ireland with meeting the people you’re doing business with face-to-face – a feeling that unless you do you simply can’t trust each other to get the job done. It’s a complete falicy of course – a throwback to another age. It’s time for Ireland Inc. to get with the digital programme.
As a freelance writer I’ve worked for many clients over the years without setting foot in their offices or ever meeting them face to face. It’s worked out spectacularly well for all concerned… a win, win, win! It’s better for me, because I don’t have to travel up to Cork, Dublin, London or further afield, it’s better for the clients because I spend my billable time writing instead of travelling, and it’s better for my family, because Dad gets to stay at home, is around for family mealtimes and never misses a bedtime story.
When meetings are absolutely necessary, have them… but take a long, hard look at what you’re trying to achieve, and consider alternatives like Skype and instant messaging, collaborative office applications like Google Docs, online meeting services like DimDim, Wikis and other collaborative online services that can make distributed teams as productive, and in many cases much more productive, than people sitting in the same office.
Changing the way we work is something that’s difficult to do. It requires adjustment of a corporate culture that pervades Ireland’s economy, and cultural change is always painful and slow. But we have a catalyst at work today – something that means managers and business owners are much more likely to consider money saving, productivity enhancing alternatives to the status quo. It’s called a recession, and it could be just the thing to drag Irish business culture kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Let’s hope so… for the sake of business, for the sake of our beleaguered economy… and of course for the sake of parents who want to spend more time with their children.