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Zombie Meetings Are Wasting Money at Offices Everywhere

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Zombie Meetings are a huge waste of money. No, these aren’t casting call gatherings for the next season of The Walking Dead. They are the commonly occurring times when a meeting is scheduled, invites are sent out, a conference room is booked — and then nobody turns up.

These no-show sessions happen all the time at workplaces across America, and they suck the life out of the bottom line.

Not even Density is immune.

Calculating the Waste

For six months, from December to June, we tracked the data at our San Francisco office’s largest conference room “Hopper,” named in honor of pioneering computer programmer and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

Of the 348 meetings scheduled, more than 15% were unattended. That is 53 empty meetings. The late great Yale-educated mathematician Grace Hopper would surely be stunned by such misuse of company real estate.

We can add another number to this waste: $3,127.

In San Francisco it costs $60 dollars an hour to rent a conference room of a similar size, meaning we spent more than three grand to host these 53 zombie meetings. And that is merely one room over just six months — at a company actively working to optimize space utilization.

In San Francisco it costs $60 dollars an hour to rent a conference room of a similar size.

Imagine misallocation of physical space that occurs at organizations with millions of square feet of office space and thousands of employees.

Space Underutilization

A deeper dive into the data reveals even more troubling results when it comes to underuse.

Hopper can hold up to 20 people but is actually designed for eight. (Typically, there are eight chairs around the large conference table, but more can be brought in if necessary.)

Despite all the available space, another 25% of the meetings held over this six-month stretch were only attended by one person. So, with a bit of quick addition, we now know that 4 out of every 10 meetings in Hopper feature one or zero people.

4 out of every 10 meetings in Hopper feature one or zero people.

It gets worse: Another 39% of the time, the meetings included either two or three people. And perhaps most interesting of all, we found that, during a typical week, the room is never occupied by more than five people.

Need for a Big Conference Room

What does this all mean? Well, it could suggest that Density San Francisco doesn’t actually need a conference room this big.

But there is one catch: The peak occupancy of Hopper during the six-month testing period was 15. Who were all these people? The attendees on the day of our board meeting, a vital but seldom-occurring event.

At Density, like many other organizations, large conference rooms may be underutilized. But when you need them, you really need them.

And this phenomenon isn’t unique to our company. Many of our clients see a similar trend. Their largest rooms are routinely underutilized — only half full for meetings — on a day-to-day basis. But on occasion, the attendee count actually even exceeds capacity, showing that these organizations do demand large gathering areas sometimes. On average, when large meeting rooms reach overcapacity, it’s only for a 44 minute meeting.