man using laptop computer in meeting

Should you embrace or ban devices in business meetings?

In the mid 1990’s, cell phones were in a 5-pound bag and could only be used for making phone calls. Laptops had gotten smaller but their capacities were still limited. The World Wide Web was just coming into play and a dial-up internet connection was one of the greatest things since sliced bread. No one had even considered bringing a laptop or cell phone into a meeting.

Flash forward 20 years and not only are adults connected, but most 13-year-olds have an internet-capable device, if not a smart phone. Consider these results from app developer DScout: On average, “people tapped, swiped and clicked a whopping 2,617 times each day.”

Policies depend on company size and culture

How does this new digital world play into today’s business world, specifically the use of electronic devices in meetings? Should your company embrace them or ban them? It really depends on the size and matrix of the company.

Face-to-face meeting produce better results but according to a recent report by LogMeIn, 73 percent of workers are taking a laptop, smartphone, tablet or combination of these into meetings. Some would argue that bringing a device to a meeting allows us to multitask, while others find it a distraction. They often become a place to catch up on email.

There are a few things to consider before implementing a policy. A recent Gallup poll on employee engagement showed engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave their companies as disengaged peers. So consider technology as a means to keep your employees engaged.

Let’s face it: Meetings are here to stay, but productivity experts say we should limit or even skip meetings altogether. Take an opportunity to re-evaluate your current meeting structure, attendees and frequency. Be sure the meetings you schedule involve the right personnel and have executable actions — let’s not waste time!

Devices in meetings can be a positive thing

Devices are not always bad. Attendees can take notes in collaborative software so they can be shared and viewed in real time, bringing the meeting to life. You can also quickly gather data and share relevant information. You can make more decisions and reduce the amount of follow-up items for future meetings.
It is a good idea to promote device etiquette if allowing devices or considering a ban:

  • Remind employees that removing themselves by focusing on devices is rude to others.
  • Never interrupt a conversation to answer a call. Let it go to voicemail and respond later.
  • Make sure volume is muted on all devices.
  • Leave any personal items unattended until after the meeting.

If you keep your electronics policy flexible, employees with a device can plug in and participate without alienating those who do not. People without devices can stay engaged by taking written notes or offering opinions verbally. As with any policy change, having a people-first approach will usually have the most positive outcome.

If you have questions or need help with this or any other HR policy, BCN Services can help. Please contact us anytime.

David Pilon, Controller