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Checking Email During Meetings? It's Not OK

Checking Email During Meetings? It's Not OK
Credit: Violet Kaipa/Shutterstock

You know you've done it. You've probably even told yourself it's OK. Your boss, on the other hand, likely has a differing opinion on whether or not it is acceptable for you to checking email during meetings.

While more than two-thirds of managers said it'scommon for workers to read and respond to emails on mobile devices during business meetings, just 6 percent said it's perfectly acceptable to do so, according to a new study from Robert Half Management Resources.

Overall, 36 percent of bosses said there is never an instance where an employee should be reading emails during meetings and would prefer if mobile devices were turned off or not brought to meetings at all. Additionally, 34 percent said employees should only read and respond to urgent messages, while 24 percent said if employees do need to respond to emails, they should step outside the meeting to do so.

Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half, said although checking emails may seem harmless, it does have some drawbacks.

"For one, many consider it poor etiquette," McDonald said in a statement. "In addition, you might miss out on key discussion points or be caught off guard when you don't answer when called upon, because you're typing or swiping away."

In order to get employees to stop checking their email during meetings, managers need to set a positive example, McDonald said.

"It's one thing to say it's unacceptable to check email during meetings. It's another to model that behavior for your team, including in one-on-one discussions," he said. "As often as possible, turn off your devices, don't bring them with you in the first place and close your email during conference calls."

To help managers get their employees focused on meetings and not their mobile devices, Robert Half offers several tips, including:

  • Set expectations: In order to better help employees understand when mobile devices can be used in meetings and when they should be shut off, businesses should create a clear set of ground rules.
  • Lead by example: If you want your staff to follow the rules, you have to set the tone by following those guidelines yourself.
  • Use email tools: When going into a meeting, encourage employees to turn on an auto-response to let those who are trying to reach them know they are in a meeting and won't be able to send an immediate response.
  • Don't be boring: Its common for others to start checking their email when they become bored with the meeting and what's being discussed. Before setting a meeting, managers should figure out if it is even necessary or if the goal could be accomplished more efficiently another way.
  • Check workloads: Often, employees use meetings to check and respond to emails because that's the only time they have to do so. Bosses should keep an eye on the workloads of their employees to see if they would be best served with getting help with some of their projects. 

The study was based on surveys of more than 300 human resources managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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