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

MENLO PARK, Calif., Dec. 11, 2014 -- Let's face it, we all check email during meetings. But it doesn't mean managers like it. While two-thirds (67 percent) of managers recently surveyed by Robert Half Management Resources said it's at least somewhat common 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.

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 human resources managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

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


Somewhat common


Somewhat uncommon


Very uncommon




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.


It's OK to read and respond to messages during the meeting, but only if the message is urgent.


It's OK to check messages as long as attendees excuse themselves and step outside the meeting to respond.


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.




"Checking email in meetings may seem harmless, but it can have drawbacks," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. "For one, many consider it poor etiquette. 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."

McDonald added managers need to lead by example. "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. 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," he said.

Robert Half Management Resources offers five tips to keep meeting attendees focused on the discussion instead of their devices:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Use your tools. Use auto responses so people know when you're in a meeting and won't expect immediate responses.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 Robert Half Management Resources
Robert Half Management Resources is the premier provider of senior-level finance, accounting and business systems professionals to supplement companies' project and interim staffing needs. The company has 150 locations worldwide and offers assistance to hiring managers and consultants at roberthalfmr.com and on its blog at blog.roberthalfmr.com.


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