Beware Zombie and Ghost Meetings

These inefficient meeting types are scary in any workplace

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Whether it's that Halloween just passed, or that The Walking Dead has just returned, but it seems as good a time as any to discuss zombies and ghosts -- and what they are doing to the workplace.

We view zombies and ghosts as mythical creatures that can instill fear in movies and TV shows, while being a popular target when it comes to first-person shooting games. No matter how you look at zombies and ghosts in these fantasy worlds, though, you should know that not only do they exist in real life, they're also killing workplace productivity.

Ghost and Zombie Meetings

Often overlooked in the workplace, up to 30 hours of productivity are wasted due to so-called "ghost meetings" and "zombie meetings." Ghost meetings are one-off meetings scheduled by coworkers, only to result in them not showing up for those meetings. According to research conducted by my meeting room analytics company Teem, 21 percent of the employees surveyed have scheduled ghost meetings at one time or another. 

Zombie meetings, on the other hand, are scheduled, recurring meetings that often result in employees not attending several times in a row. This could be a result of anything from the meeting host no longer working at the company to rescheduling the meeting without canceling the initial room reservation. Teem research revealed that 4 percent of employees have organized a zombie meeting

The results of these meetings can be consequential. Employees who are looking for rooms to meet are left scrambling for open spaces, while the reserved rooms sit empty, resulting in up to 30 hours of wasted productivity each month.

Although they may not be aware of the term "ghost" and "zombie" meetings, employees are familiar with these meeting scheduling scenarios. They view this as a problem … yet, they don't know who they can turn to in order to resolve it. Is it an HR issue? Or do you take it up with the office manager? At that moment in time, you're not necessarily concerned about creating a better workplace. All you're concerned about is where can you find a room to meet.  

Killing Off Ghosts and Zombies

My title as Chief of Workplace Experience at Teem is exactly how it sounds. It is my job to help enhance the overall workplace experience. I believe that the key to a better experience comes in three important elements: People, places, and technology. So what steps can we take using these three elements to create a better experience in the workplace? 

When it comes to people, it's important to establish a good culture at work. Usually, when we talk about work culture, we're talking more about trust. When there's a lack of structure in using meeting spaces in the office, unintentional distrust could be brewing, which could turn into massive repercussions. If you've ever seen employees argue over meeting rooms, then you've witnessed a culture of contention and distrust that was unintentional. 

Building trust in the office means having open communication and organization when it comes to reserving meeting spaces. It may seem simple, but often difficult to enforce when you need everyone in the office to buy in. 

When it comes to places, I'm not talking about finding another company to work for. Here, I'm talking about being open to additional meeting rooms in your office. You may think you're doing that already, but is there a particular room that you favor over others because there's better technology or furniture available in that room? Or perhaps that room is closest to your desk? 

For whatever reason, employees often stick to within a certain radius when it comes to where they work. They like to stick to just one or two rooms that they're familiar with, without really venturing out to use other rooms. Leveraging the entire office could help maximize the use of all meeting room spaces -- and could also minimize the possibility of additional ghost and zombie meetings. 

From a technology standpoint, the first two steps can be done with the help of an effective meeting room analytics solution. Teem's technology, for example, can keep businesses organized with proper scheduling for meetings. In addition, Teem's analytics solutions includes a "zombie killer" feature, where we can actively monitor a company's recurring meetings for which attendees are failing to check in on the room display. Once a recurring meeting has failed to check in for a specified number of consecutive occurrences, Teem removes the room from the recurring meeting series. This kills the zombie and frees up that resource for the rest of the organization.

So there you have it. We now know that ghosts and zombies exist in the workplace. And even though they can be detrimental to productivity, they can be killed by the use of people, places and technology.

Happy Meeting!

Zach Holmquist is cofounder and chief of workplace experience for Teem, the room booking and analytics platform. Teem's platform is more than a meeting room booking system, incorporating visitor management & workplace analytics for a more efficient & productive office.