As everyone’s “New Year, New Me” resolutions start to fall to the wayside, now is your chance to shake things up a bit to keep your workforce motivated for the year ahead.

Meetings are a huge part of our working lives, yet many of us don’t feel engaged or inspired by them.

Let’s face it: for most people a meeting is either getting in the way of doing some real work or it’s an excuse not to do any work.

Here are six ways you can turn that around this year:

Escape the office

Professional facilities are not only more comfortable, they have fewer distractions – so it’s no wonder 63% of meeting planners say off-site meetings are more productive.

While it may be cheaper to stay put in the office, going all out for important meetings can be covered by a short-term unsecured business loan and are well worth the investment.

Even just getting the team out for a working pub lunch can help colleagues get to know each other on a more personal level and improve the quality of brainstorming sessions.

With more and more employees working remotely, technology allows you to do away with physical meetings altogether.

From high-speed Wi-Fi and video conferencing software it’s easier than ever to connect with employees who work from home and even in other countries.

Use scrap paper

Using scrap paper when brainstorming ideas can really help the creative process. The methods below also encourage quieter members of the group to put their ideas forward without fear of embarrassment.

While suggesting ideas everyone could quickly sketch what each one might look like; if you ask even a small group to interpret someone else’s idea in their own way, you’ll be surprised by how quickly one idea becomes several.

You could do away with suggesting ideas aloud altogether by having each person write up to three ideas on a piece of scrap paper then pass it to the person next to them and so on.

Everyone will take some inspiration from others’ suggestions and soon enough you’ll have a wad of ideas to explore.

Open it up to other departments

Include at least one person in the meeting who isn’t normally part of the team to get a fresh perspective.

For example, if you’re working with a team of creatives on some new POS formats, involving someone from the art working and printing departments can give the designers an appreciation of what can and can’t be done.

Stand up

Just like teachers used to make us get up and shake the cobwebs off to switch our brains on in school, removing chairs can greatly improve the quality of meetings in adulthood.

It’s been found that those who stand up in meetings become more engaged and creative when brainstorming, as well as less territorial about their ideas.

So try banning chairs for short brainstorming sessions and making attendees get up for a while during longer meetings to keep everyone in the zone.

Provide brain food

Providing food at meetings always goes down well with attendees.

But while staple meeting treats such as white bread, pastries and other simple carbohydrates may create a brief sugar rush, they result in a crash and loss of focus soon after.

So if you do decide to put on food for everyone, choosing the right foods is the difference between a productive meeting and a sluggish one.

The balance between carbohydrates and proteins determines whether the brain is stimulated or relaxed.

For teambuilding or social networking meetings, a focus on carbohydrates will produce more serotonin in the body, so attendees feel more satisfied and happy. However, you would want the opposite for a strategic meeting.

You also want to stimulate the brain with a chemical called tyrosine, which can be created by eating seafood and chicken.

Less is more

Considering the average person will spend a whole year in ineffective meetings during their working life, it may be time to simply start having less of them.

If that’s not possible, try making all meetings voluntary; not only will this make everyone feel more empowered to make their own decisions, but you can use attendance levels to determine whether your current meeting formats are engaging people.