In the evolving modern workplace, where efficiency is key, a specter haunts global office buildings — in the form of ghost meetings. This isn't just a minor inconvenience; it's a substantial drain on resources that can impact the success of any organization.
It's a problem that demands attention and a challenge that begs for a solution.
In this blog, we breakdown ghost meetings. What they are, why they happen, and how they can impact your workplace, so you can prevent a haunting before it happens.
Understanding Ghost Meetings and the Reason They Happen
According to our Occupancy Intelligence Index, 11.3% of meetings are ghosted. That amounts to 10 million minutes of unrecovered time caused by people booking meeting rooms but not showing up.
Picture the potential consequences — hours slipping away unnoticed, leaving employees frustrated trying to figure out if a room is truly available and workplace leaders scratching their heads trying to make sense of the constant requests for more meeting rooms. A true workplace nightmare.
There are numerous reasons why employees are increasingly ghosting meetings. One of the primary catalysts is the shift towards hybrid and flexible schedules. Five-day office schedules are much less common than they were in the past, and employees are choosing to come into the office just a few days a week with collaboration in mind. As they navigate the flexibility of when and where they work, scheduling conflicts have become more common.
Other reasons for ghost meetings may include:
Space design: Inefficient or inaccessible meeting spaces, spaces that lack acoustical privacy, or even regularly cold rooms, may dissuade employees from utilizing them, resulting in unattended bookings and wasted resources.
Technology hurdles: In our tech-driven era, glitches and challenges with meeting technologies can act as deterrents. Technical issues, from difficulty accessing virtual meetings to unreliable equipment, may prompt employees to abandon or avoid scheduled meetings altogether.
Miscommunication: Miscommunication, whether in the form of unclear agendas, ambiguous meeting objectives, or simply forgetting to update colleagues about changes in plans, can contribute to the phenomenon of ghost meetings.
The Impact of Ghost Meetings
Ghost meetings have ramifications that are both big and small and extend far beyond mere inconveniences; their impact is deeply rooted in both the financial costs they cause for a company and how they hurt the overall employee experience. It’s important to understand these consequences, as it’s only then that you can pave the way for strategic interventions toward a more efficient, engaged, and financially sustainable workplace.
Financial Implications of Ghost Meetings
Let’s dissect the financial impact of ghost meetings, exploring the costly burden that makes them more than just an office inconvenience. Here, there are two primary causes for concern for organizations.
Waste of Expensive Real Estate
The cost of office spaces, especially in prime locations, is a significant financial investment for companies. Ghost meetings compound the costs associated with maintaining these spaces, as booked meeting rooms sit idle, providing no return on the substantial investment made in leasing or owning these premises.
Of course, real estate costs – and therefore potential losses caused by ghost meetings – vary widely based on location. In most major cities, however, the average monthly cost per square foot of office space hovers around $80-$90. This means a 150-square foot, 6-person meeting room is representative of anywhere between $12,000 and $13,500 per month, not including the cost of amenities. Let’s say there’s 30 of these meeting rooms in your building and your cost without amenities jumps to around $400,000 per month.
Ghost meetings in any workplace are costly, but they’re especially so in a setting like this. To calculate the cost of ghost meetings per month in your workplace, you can use the equation below:
Amount of time wasted on ghost meetings x the cost of the meeting space
You can read our recent analysis of the hidden costs of ghost meetings here.
This financial drain is not only evident in terms of rent or mortgage payments but also in the ancillary expenses tied to maintaining a professional and functional office environment.
Think of the money spent on audiovisual equipment, communication tools, and IT support. When meeting rooms go unused due to ghost meetings, these investments in technology remain underutilized. Yet, the expenses associated with acquiring and maintaining these technologies — ranging from the initial purchase to ongoing software updates and technical support — continue to accrue, despite the lack of actual utilization.
Moreover, the idle state of these meeting rooms contributes to ongoing operational costs. Utilities, heating, cooling, lighting, and routine maintenance continue to be expended, adding to the financial toll. This sustained drain on resources affects the overall economic sustainability and strategic allocation of funds within the organization.
Employee Experience Implications
There are several ways in which ghost meetings can hinder the employee experience, and therefore your workers’ willingness to come to the office. We break them down below.
Causes Friction & Frustration
One of the most immediate effects of ghost meetings is the friction and frustration experienced by employees. The paradox of coming into the office to collaborate, only to find meeting rooms unavailable due to unattended bookings, undermines the very purpose of in-person collaboration. We call this an “office breaking point,” which is when the demands of the workforce are not being met by available space, space design, or mix of space types. Breaking points can create a deterrent for employees, potentially reducing their willingness to come into the office — a concerning trend as companies continue to push return-to-work mandates.
Adds to Supply and Demand Imbalance
Our Occupancy Intelligence Index reveals an existing scarcity of employees’ preferred meeting rooms in the workplace. While our data shows workers favor two to four-person meeting rooms, with six-person meeting rooms following close behind, larger conference rooms are actually more prevalent across offices.
Ghost meetings exacerbate this issue, creating an imbalance between supply and demand. As employees reserve rooms and subsequently ghost them, the scarcity of available meeting spaces intensifies, further impeding effective collaboration.
Hinders Employee Productivity
The cumulative impact of ghost meetings is a substantial hindrance to productivity. The Occupancy Intelligence Index underscores this by highlighting the severe shortage of meeting rooms, exacerbating the impact of ghosting. With an estimated 10 million ghosted minutes annually, the loss in productivity is not only significant for the individual but also translates to 10 million minutes of misused time — a collective loss that could have been spent collaboratively by other teams.
Preventing Ghost Meetings with Occupancy Intelligence
Ghost meetings seem scary, but they don’t have to be. With the right data you can exorcize this office pitfall with practical solutions. Tracking active and passive occupancy in your meeting rooms allows you to truly understand when spaces are being used and when they’re just a holding place for someone’s belongings.
Our Occupancy Intelligence Platform helps companies identify how their space is being used. It captures real-time data on room occupancy, meeting duration, and frequency, and integrates with your room-booking software to bridge the gap between scheduled meetings and actual utilization.
Our goal is to equip space designers and occupancy planners with the knowledge they need to end ghost meetings once and for all. With these best practices in hand, workplace leaders will be able to create an office experience that fulfills its occupants’ needs in a work era defined by flexibility.
Read our comprehensive analysis of year-to-date workplace occupancy trends, including meeting room utilization! Uncover office breaking points, meeting room inefficiencies, and real strategies and stories from the global return to work.