Meetings are part of everyday office life, they can be good and productive, but also at times they can feel long, pointless and a bit of a drag. With the rise in open plan offices with less divides and glass walls, however, they tend not to be as private as they once were. We have undertaken some research to discover how this rise in public working space is affecting employees.
Shockingly, almost half (48%) of employees across varying sectors have admitted experiencing anxiety brought about by meetings both during and after the working day, according to our research.
We uncovered a variety of reasons as to why this is happening, discovered the lengths people are going to everyday in the UK to try and reduce stresses, who it’s affecting most, the knock-on effects as well as some of the shocking things that have been said to employees in meetings.
Following a series of studies and speaking to actual workers who are experiencing workplace anxiety, we learned a fair amount about what was causing these worries. The fear of the sack, humiliation, or the thought of being outdone by peers were the main causes of distress, with people prepared to go to remarkable lengths for relieving their trepidations.
The extreme measures that UK employees confessed to going on meeting days to try to mask their anxieties are sure to have a negative effect on both in and outside of work. Regular means of escape included:
Pulling a sickie- the traditional means of avoiding going to go to work
Wearing different clothes to disguise nervous perspiration
Taking more cigarette breaks
Lunchtime trips to the pub ahead of afternoon meetings in an attempt to drown out anxieties
Who is suffering the most?
The millennial generation were the most likely to suffer from the anxiety. Our studies showed that workers under 34 experienced the highest stress levels, largely because of pressures to impress early in a career as well the burden of student loans hanging over them.
The lack of private meetings did little to ease fears. 27% of UK workers we spoke to said that the open plan layouts of modern offices with glass-walled meetings rooms were adding to their anxiety.
In the UK, the main locations for daily work anxiety were:
Overall in the UK, employees are spending 40 minutes in meetings each day and are being paid over £4,300 a year to do so.
As part of our research we collated anonymous submissions of the most shocking things workers across the UK have encountered in workplace meetings:
The subtle boss…
The team player…
Just plain rude…
The privacy problem is understandable with the rise of ‘Millennial’ offices, which often feature open plan rooms, beanbag chairs, glass walls, creative spaces etc. The more traditional enclosed areas you’d expect for meetings, do offer a more confidential feel, but are getting harder to come by. A solution could be something as simple as putting up some office blinds, or erecting temporary walls.
On top of this, you could also look to relocate to another part of the country where meetings are a little scarcer.
Along with the top five cities with the most meetings (see above) we also did a little more research to find out the top locations where the fewest meetings are held.
To help avoid these then, you might want to move to any of the following:
Chelmsford – as only 22% of people here have daily meetings
Worcester – slightly more meetings here, but still only 25%
Norwich – 44%
Portsmouth – 46%
Oxford – 50%
So, next time you’re having a sleepless night over an impending meeting, remember that you’re not alone. Also, maybe consider some of the above advice and you could soon rid yourself of these anxieties and make your work life much better.