What is the current dynamic of meetings in your organization when it comes to having a productive meeting? When you gather for discussion, brain storming, problem solving or planning‚ is every attendee tuned in to the session? Or are they multitasking, keeping an eye on their laptop and phone? Perhaps actively tending to business, as evidenced by typing away on their keyboard? A recent article on the CNN Business blog addressed the downside of having our personal tech devices in meetings:

  • Our individual productivity is compromised on all fronts. We may think that we are being more productive by multitasking during meetings, but research shows that trying to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously compromises productivity. As it turns out, our brains are not actually able to attend to two things at once. Instead, we mentally bounce from one activity to another, sacrificing focus on all/both fronts.
  • The meeting is less productive. If some or all participants in the meeting only have one ear in the discussion, the quality of thought and input will be proportional. Important points are missed. Details must be repeated. It also increases the likelihood that participants will leave the meeting with varied understanding of decisions made or next steps, because they were not all hearing the same message at the same time. Ultimately, the result of meeting attendees engaged with their tech devices is diminished outcomes, a prolonged session to reach objectives, or both.
  • It has a negative impact on other attendees. Even one attendee who is engaged with their phone or laptop will compromise the session for everyone. First, a buzzing phone or the sound of typing is distracting for everyone in the room. Plus, staring at a screen means attendees aren't making eye contact with the speaker or others at the table. The body language alone can be off-putting, seen as disrespect or a lack of interest, and it can also undermine the leader/speaker's credibility with the rest of attendees.

It is easy to understand the temptation to multitask during meetings. We are all busy, with calls to return, pressing deadlines and ever-growing to-do lists. Bottom line, dividing our attention during meetings isn't productive and does nothing to get us ahead. Leaving phones and laptops behind will facilitate the full attention and input of all attendees, and that results in better communication, better outcomes and an earlier finish to the meeting. As a bonus, our relationships will be better for it, cultivated by a dynamic in which all attendees are engaged, working collaboratively and tuned in to mutual objectives and outcomes.