Are Your Employees Glued to Their Phones During Meetings?

BY Kathy Crosett
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How many times has your phone chirped in a meeting?  Maybe it’s a co-​worker texting you about the presentation you're both sitting through. It’s no big deal if you answer that co-​worker, right? These kinds of scenarios have led more than one CEO to ban mobile devices in meetings. Should you do the same?

John Simons cited the 2016 Career Builder study on productivity in his recent Wall Street Journal column. The study confirms what many managers and team members suspect. "The devices [smartphones] are the leading productivity killers in the workplace.” People find it easy to let their attention drift to their smartphones when they don’t want to engage with others.

Beyond that, employees who use phones during meetings are telling others, through their actions, that they're not interested in what's being discussed. Corporate courtesy really goes down the drain when managers start texting with their team members when another manager is making a presentation. Is this the kind of work environment you want to promote at your company?

Probably not. To cut down on the problem, you can follow the lead of several company leaders who are change agents on this topic. They’re asking employees to leave their mobile phones outside of meeting rooms. If that measure seems too draconian, ask your team members to put the devices in their bags during meetings.

Employees may still find it hard to break their mobile phone habits. In that case, ask your employees to track the amount of time they’re spending on their phone during work hours. They can even download an app to help with the task. The total time figures may shock them into making a conscious effort to reduce their dependency on their digital leashes.

Some managers who tried to enforce the no-​phones rules at their meetings found that employees still kept in touch with the outside world by using their watches or tablets. This behavior underscores how hard it will be to make this change. If you’re serious about wanting people to pay attention during meetings, set an example by leaving your phone elsewhere. If team members still won't stop staring at their screens, stop inviting them to meetings.