Meeting culture varies drastically based on where you live and is heavily influenced by cultural norms and organizational practices. According to Doodle’s Q2 2020 State of Meetings report, the days and times when employees schedule meetings are drastically different in the United States compared to numerous parts of Europe.
For example, there is no specific time when Americans are less likely to have meetings, apart from a slight dip around noon (though there is a small preference for Thursday meetings). This suggests that Americans love meetings just a bit too much. Making themselves available (and accepting meeting request after request) non-stop throughout the workday might seem like they’re being collaborative and open to feedback. But in reality, it’s interrupting their productivity flow, which can cause delays on larger projects and affect individual performance.
Additionally, about 7% of American meetings took place between the evening hours of 7 and 11, which may be contributing to a culture of overworking. With so many meetings during regular workday hours, people are purposely keeping their evenings meeting-free, likely using that time to catch up on work. In other words, Americans are working outside of work. As a result, many are overworked, stressed, and burned out — which aligns with research that shows that Americans work 260 more hours per year than their British counterparts, and 499 more hours than French workers.
Brits tend to wake up early, with 35% rising at 5:30 a.m. But that doesn’t mean they like early meetings. Only 13% of meetings took place at the start of the workday (between 9 and 11). The post-lunch afternoon period (between 2 and 4) had nearly double the percentage of meetings (24%). This suggests that mornings are a time of high productivity, so the British reserve this time to get organized and concentrate on deep work.
Additionally, like their American counterparts, British workers prefer meetings mid-week. As Damon Brown, entrepreneur and author of The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, writes:
“By Thursday, you’ve gotten into a rhythm after three days of focus. The weekend is long gone. You also have the momentum from getting through the week. Top challenges have been met and conversations begun earlier in the week have been continuing without the interruption of the weekend.”
Meanwhile according to BusinessCulture.org, etiquette dictates that the best time to schedule meetings in French workplaces is in the late morning or mid-afternoon, usually any time between 11 and 3:30. Our data supports this, with 40% of French meetings scheduled between 11 and 3.
Within that time frame, though, only 4%t of meetings were scheduled at noon. This reaffirms a prevalent cultural practice in French workplaces: Lunch breaks are sacred and off limits for meetings. Unlike their American counterparts who often eat lunch at their desks (or take short breaks), it’s quite common for French professionals to stop working around noon to gather in the company’s kitchen or cafeteria and eat with coworkers to catch up on life, not work.
(It’s also been said that French business professionals like to plan out their schedules well in advance, with at least two weeks notice. That explains why the average notice period given ahead of meetings is 20 days.)
Interestingly, there was a sharp drop-off in the number of meetings scheduled after 8 p..m, signaling that French workers reserve their evenings for personal time with family and friends. The “right to disconnect” law may have something to do with this. It was enacted in France on January 1, 2017, to allow employees to disconnect from their work and to not receive or answer any work-related emails, calls, or messages outside of normal working hours.
Over 57% of German meetings were scheduled between 12 and 6. This might suggest that mornings are a time for deep focus and getting organized for the day.
Surprisingly, Germans were more open to weekend meetings than workers in other countries. Indeed, 15% of German meetings took place on Saturdays and Sundays. By contrast, this was much less common in the United States (7%), the United Kingdom (8%), France (10%) and Switzerland (12%).
The tendency to be available for weekend meetings could come at a high cost to Germans. As a Gallup poll recently revealed, as many as 4.1 million German workers experienced work-related mental or emotional stress. Meanwhile, the chief executive of Techniker Krankenkasse, one of Germany’s leading public health insurance providers, also confirmed that “lifestyle diseases” are on the rise in Germany, citing that its customers miss more than 15 days of work a year on average
Eighteen percent of Swiss meetings took place in the evening between 7 and 11. This is somewhat surprising given that the maximum number of hours a Swiss company can ask employees to work is 45 hours a week (apart from some manual jobs, which allow a 50-hour workweek).
This could get Swiss companies into legal trouble if their employees meet too often at night. Consequently, Swiss companies should take heed of this data and use it as an opportunity to educate their staff on working-hour policies, as well as coach their people to make better use of time during the workday.
The biggest takeaway from these findings is that a few, small choices can impact the productivity and effectiveness of meetings — particularly when meeting with international colleagues. By booking meetings at a time of day when your energy level is high and doesn’t interrupt your productivity flow, you will be more active and focused in discussions. And isn’t that the whole point of meetings?