Have you ever finished a meeting and wondered whether everyone there stayed awake all the way through? At least some of the time, they probably didn't. A review of the research by resume writing site LiveCareer shows that 39 percent of employees admit they have fallen asleep during work meetings

That's just one surprising fact to emerge from LiveCareer's study. Here are a few more things it learned, both from reviewing research from other sources and from conducting its own survey of 1,000 U.S. employees. Use these insights when planning your own work meetings to make them more engaging and effective for everyone.

1. Your employees spend too much time in meetings.

According to research by Atlassian, the average employee attends 62 meetings every month and considers 31 of them to be a waste of time. In its survey, LiveCareer asked employees how much time they spent in meetings, rather than how many they attended. The answers were disheartening. Eighty-one percent reported spending at least four hours a week in meetings. That's 10 percent of every 40-hour work week, or half a workday every week. It makes sense if the meetings are helping them or others do their jobs better. If not, that time would be well worth reclaiming.

And 45 percent said they spend at least seven hours per week in meetings--that's almost an entire workday every week. Respondents also reported that since the pandemic and the increase in remote work, the number of meetings they attend has increased an average of 13.5 percent.

These numbers might inspire you to ask some tough questions. Are all your meetings necessary? Does everyone who attends them need to be there? Are there meetings that could be replaced with an announcement or an email thread? And how much productivity would you reclaim if you did that?

2. Your meetings are way too long.

With few exceptions, such as an all-day workshop, meetings should never go on longer than an hour. When asked how long it takes for people's attention to stop paying attention to a meeting, 96 percent said it happens after 50 minutes. And 52 percent say people stop paying attention after 30 minutes or less. 

These respondents are probably right. Neuroscientists tell us that the human mind is not designed to maintain focus on any single thing over long periods of time. Instead, our focus tends to be scattered over whatever's around us, a survival feature that we evolved to have. So while you may be very much focused on the presentation you're making or the meeting your leading, be aware that after half an hour, most of the other participants won't be. When it comes to meetings, shorter is better.

3. Most people attending your meetings are doing other stuff at the same time.

When you lead a meeting, do you assume that the people there are giving you their undivided attention? If so, you're mostly wrong. Three quarters of the respondents in the survey say they do other things to pass the time during meetings. What are these other activities? The most popular include reading news on the internet (39 percent), browsing social media (38 percent), and reading a book (38 percent). Other popular within-meeting pastimes include online shopping, texting with friends, playing mobile games, and--in next-to-last place--catching up on work not related to the meeting. 

When you're leading a meeting, think about how to engage participants' attention and keep them mentally involved. Try to keep formalities and mundane status reports to a minimum, and interaction to a maximum. Don't assume people will listen to you because they have to--that approach rarely works. And it goes without saying that the only people who should be there are those who need the information to do their jobs, or whose contribution you need. If people don't need to be there, for pity's sake let them use their time more productively someplace else.

4. The real value of meetings may not be what you think it is. 

You may believe that meetings are valuable as a way to either to share information or to make decisions as a group. And it's true that meetings are very useful ways to do those things. But the LiveCareer survey revealed another whole reason people value meetings: They help cement the relationships that bring a team together and make employees feel like cohesive unit.

Seventy-three percent of survey respondents agreed with the statement "In-person meetings establish strong relationships," and 71 percent agreed that "In-person meetings are a great opportunity to see and talk with people." As for online meetings, 70 percent agreed that "Online meetings are a great opportunity to see and talk with people when working remotely." 

Think about it. You want your employees to work together as a team, and to help and trust one another. You also want them to stay at your company, and relationships people have at work are a big motivation for doing that. Interpersonal interactions are a great way to help those relationships strengthen and grow. So when leading a meeting, consider encouraging some personal interaction rather than focusing solely on the business at hand. Your employees may find it more engaging and enjoyable and it may help them form the workplace relationships they need to become part of a successful team. That would be a win for them, and for you as well.