Put Down Your Smartphone!

Survey: Checking Email in Meetings a Frequent Occurrence, but Managers Don’t Like It

Toronto, ON (Dec. 11, 2014) – Let’s face it, we all check email during meetings. But it doesn’t mean managers like it. While nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of managers recently 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 of respondents said this is perfectly acceptable.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, the world’s premier provider of senior-level finance, accounting and business systems professionals on a project and interim basis. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with more than 300 managers from a random sample of Canadian companies.

Managers were asked, “In your experience, how common is it for professionals you work with to read and respond to email messages on their mobile devices during business meetings?” Their responses:

“Very common” 18%
“Somewhat common” 43%
“Somewhat uncommon” 23%
“Very uncommon” 15%
“Don’t know” 2%
Total: 101%

Respondents were then asked, “Which one of the following most closely describes your reaction when professionals read and respond to email during business meetings?” Their responses:

It’s never OK. Email devices should be turned off or not brought to the meeting at all 42%
It’s OK to read and respond to messages during the meeting, but only if the message is urgent 28%
It’s OK to check messages as long as attendees excuse themselves and step outside the meeting to respond 25%
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 4%
Total: 99%

Numbers do not total 100 per cent due to rounding.

“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 offers five tips to keep meeting attendees focused on the discussion instead of their devices:

  • 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.
  • Model the right behavior. As managers, you set the tone for how employees engage – or disengage – during meetings. Make sure that everyone sticks to the ground rules.
  • Use your tools. Use auto responses so people know when you’re in a meeting and won’t expect immediate responses.
  • 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.
  • 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.

About the Surveys

The Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey was conducted from April to June 2014 and includes responses from 1,637 companies worldwide. The participants represent a wide range of industries and geographic regions.

The Towers Watson Global Workforce Study covers more than 32,000 employees selected from research panels that represent the populations of full-time employees working in large and midsize organizations across a range of industries in 26 markets around the world. It was fielded online during April and May 2014.

About Robert Half Management Resources

Source: Robert Half Management Resources