Checking email in meetings frequent occurrence – but managers don't like it: Survey

42 per cent of managers feel devices should be turned off
||Last Updated: 12/16/2014

While nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of managers surveyed by Robert Half Management Resources said it's at least somewhat common for professionals to read and respond to emails on mobile devices during business meetings, only four per cent said this is perfectly acceptable.

When asked how common it is for colleagues to read and respond to email messages on their mobile devices during business meetings, 18 per cent of managers said it’s very common, 43 per cent said it’s somewhat common, 23 per cent said it’s somewhat uncommon and 15 per cent said it’s very uncommon, found the survey of more than 300 managers.

As for their reaction, 42 per cent of managers said the practice of checking email during a meeting is never OK.

"Which one of the following most closely describes your reaction
when professionals read and respond to email during business meetings?

It's never OK. Email devices should be turned off or not

brought to the meeting at all


It's OK to read and respond to messages during the

meeting, but only if the message is urgent


It's OK to check messages as long as attendees

excuse themselves and step outside the meeting to respond


It's perfectly acceptable to read and respond to

messages during the meeting, especially at a time

when what is being said doesn't pertain to them


"Checking email while in meetings may seem harmless, but doing so could reflect badly on you in front of your colleagues and managers," said David King, Canadian president of Robert Half Management Resources. "While typing away on your device, your non-verbal cue may be that something is more important than the people sitting in the room with you, which could be viewed as disrespectful to colleagues."

"Meetings are a great way to encourage collaboration and generate ideas, but having your attention divided might mean you miss the opportunity to provide your input and add value to the conversation," King added.

Robert Half Management Resources offered five tips for managers to keep meeting attendees focused on the discussion instead of their devices:

1. Establish expectations. Develop a well-defined list of ground rules when it comes to using mobile devices in meetings. This will ensure employees understand if and when these tools can be used and whether they should be shut off or set to silent.

2. Model the right behaviour. As managers, you set the tone for how employees engage — or disengage — during meetings. Make sure everyone sticks to the rules.

3. Use your tools. Use auto responses so people know when you're in a meeting and won't expect immediate responses.

4. Keep participants engaged. People commonly turn to other activities during meetings because they're bored or restless. Determine if the meeting is necessary or if the goal could be accomplished more efficiently another way.

5. Check staff members' workloads. You may find some employees are on email in meetings because that's the only time they can be. For individuals facing heavier-than-normal workloads, reassign some of their tasks and bring in additional support as needed.

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