What do you think about multi-tasking in meetings?

With the rise of tablets and smartphones, multi-tasking is everywhere these days, and it’s generally considered a good thing.

One place where it isn’t necessarily a good idea, however, is in business meetings.

There may be an occasional situation in which it’s acceptable, but for the most part, emailing, messaging or otherwise using a device or laptop to do anything else but take notes is considered poor form.

Besides the fact that it can be rude, one practical reason for that is that meetings are expensive. Gathering everyone together involves a big opportunity cost, and when participants fail to give their undivided attention, that meeting will stretch out, get less done and cost more.

Here are a few etiquette suggestions gathered in a quick office poll:

  1. If you have to be checking email in a meeting – if you’re waiting on something important for example – let others know what you’re doing. Don’t read other emails that arrive.
  2. By all means, use a laptop or device to take notes, but make sure that you give your focus to the meeting and your colleagues, not the screen.
  3. Make sure that the volume on your device is set to zero – keystrokes and mail notifications included!
  4. In the same vein, put your phone on silent, and if you get a call that you must take, take it outside.
  5. If you are tempted to multi-task in a meeting, remember that studies show that doing two things at once makes you less effective at both.

Christine Pearson, the author of The Cost of Bad Behaviour, says that in her experience around 20% of people argue that checking email in meetings is okay, while for the remainder it’s disrespectful, uncivil, and top of their list of rude business behaviours.

Where do you sit? Tell us here.