Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 16:03 UK

Meeting - Tuesday, 3pm. You free?

By Megan Lane
BBC News Magazine

The best time for a workplace meeting is 3pm on a Tuesday, according to a study. Why?

Meeting reminder (Jupiter Images)
Too early in the day

A meeting? First thing on Monday? For many office workers that's a little early, an intrusion into time reserved for a hurried coffee, checking e-mails, steeling yourself for the working week, and, well, getting stuck into some actual work.

But by 3pm, the day is well under way, and many staff are better able to take the change of pace and focus that a meeting can bring. Begin any later, and wage earners will start to clock-watch.

A new study says 3pm on Tuesday is the best time to call a meeting as most prospective attendees will be free. The hour in question is an office diary sweet spot - representing a confluence of employee availability, motivation and willingness, say those responsible for the finding.

"It's psychological - 3pm is coffee break time. People can see themselves talking over a coffee," says Keith Harris, of online scheduling service When Is Good.

I'd hesitate to call a meeting at 3pm, it's quite late in the day for some people
Stephen Overell, Work Foundation

"Anecdotally, our users wanted to put off meetings until the last possible time. They want to reserve the morning for their own tasks."

He has analysed 100,000 responses to 34,000 meeting requests sent by When Is Good users, and 3pm - particularly on a Tuesday - is the time which has the most acceptances. Conversely, the worst time to plan a meeting is at 9am on a Monday. Then, just one in three people will readily accept, compared with about half for an afternoon meeting.

And staff are more receptive to lunchtime meetings than Mr Harris expected. "There was a slight dip [in acceptances], but people are prepared to work over lunch."

But there is more to a good meeting than just availability. And one expert in workplace consultancy is sceptical about the 1500 ideal.

Lunch meeting (Jupiter Images)
A lunchtime meeting means no break

"I'd hesitate to call a meeting at 3pm, it's quite late in the day for some people," says Stephen Overell, associate director of the Work Foundation.

A meeting will be most productive if those attending have time afterwards to act on the agreed aims, says Mr Overell. If it ends too close to clocking off time, the momentum is lost.

"The point of a meeting is to agree something as a group, and then act upon it - so 3pm is slightly late in the day."

But Mr Overell agrees that afternoons are generally more suited to meetings.

"People on the whole tend to be more creative and better at problem solving in the morning. Afternoons are better for collaborating and team work.

"But I'd schedule a meeting for 2pm. A meeting helps focus minds again after lunch, and the adrenalin and interactivity can help ward off post-prandial sleepiness."

Meeting with sleeping man (Jupiter Images)
A drawback of a post-lunch meeting

The risk of napping may, of course, rise if the meeting involves sitting in a darkened room watching a presentation.

As for which day to choose, Mr Overell says there is a trend for meetings to be held in the first half of the week, in part because staff given the opportunity to work from home often do so on a Friday.

But in some organisations - or the higher up the hierarchy one is - the timing of a meeting does come down to availability.

"A lot of people with managerial positions have a lot of meetings, all through the day," says Mr Overell. "And some organisations seem to be hooked on meetings - they cannot make a decision without gathering together a group of their highest paid individuals."

Instead of asking for comments, the Magazine hosted a live virtual meeting on Tuesday at... no prizes for guessing the time... 3pm. Click here to relive the readers' powwow about the optimum time for a workplace meeting.

Invitation to our live meeting, to be held in the Monitor

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