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cellphones in meetings

Should we be banning cellphones in meetings?

When was the last time you sat down to read a book or watch a movie without any message or app notification disruptions?  Were you able to leave your phone until you had read that last chapter or watched the movie to the end?  There may still be a few strong people out there, but for most of us, the answer is probably no.

Digital overload has become a real problem and it’s starting to affect our productivity, particularly in meetings.  If you really think about it, it’s now become the norm to see a room full of people with their heads down, checking in and responding to messages and other notifications on their phones instead of paying attention to what’s being said.

So what about banning cellphones in meetings?  Does it sound a bit drastic?  Interestingly more and more companies are implementing this new rule.  Virgin Mobile Australia, for example, have implemented opt-in “mobile free meetings” and have found that there’s not only increased productivity and engagement during these meetings, but that the meeting organisers also respect people’s time and commitment to the meeting more and therefore run better meetings.  For them it’s been a win-win for all.

But going cold turkey is probably not the best way to go about it.  We can definitely take a few tips from the Virgin Mobile Australia example.  We would propose the following approach:

  • Ensure that there’s sufficient buy-in
    Forcing something on people will rarely yield positive results. Discuss it with your team, explain your reasons for wanting to try it and get everyone on board in this way.  Explain to them that they’ll be able to provide input during the process and that this will be a collaborative effort instead of a forced one.
  • Define the types of meetings you want to target
    For some meetings, there may still be a good argument for keeping cellphones, particularly if people need to access them to check calendars, or use a specific app for sharing ideas, etc. Therefore you need to be specific about which meetings you’ll target as cellphone free meetings.  Brainstorming sessions, feedback sessions & design collaborations are all great places to start.
  • Run a trial period & collect feedback
    Define a trial period upfront and make sure everybody sticks to it. After the trial period has passed, get together and review the results.  You’re either going to get to a point where you decide to make some tweaks and try it again, continue on if it worked for the majority, or scrap the idea completely if your team felt it was a huge disaster.  But like the saying goes:  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Even if the idea fails, it will at least raise awareness of the issues companies face when people are not fully engaged during meetings, and maybe, just maybe it will become habit for people to put their phones away on their own.

What are your thoughts about creating cellphone free meetings?  Do you think it could work in your organisation?  Leave a comment below, give us a call on 021 447 5696 or email to share your thoughts.

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