Over 75% of HR directors say staff check emails during meetings

Over three quarters of UK HR directors find it common for employees to read and respond to emails during meetings, although most believe this is only acceptable if it is an urgent message, according to a new survey.

The survey by Office Team, a Robert Half company, found SMEs were most prone to people checking emails in meetings. Some 88% of HR directors said it was common.

However, 41% believe it’s only acceptable to read messages during a meeting if they are urgent and a quarter even go as far as to say that it’s never acceptable to respond to emails during a meeting and that mobile devices should be turned off or not brought to a meeting at all. Almost one quarter said that it’s OK to check messages as long as the employee excuses themselves and steps outside to respond.

When asked what most closely describes their reaction when colleagues read and responded to emails during a meeting, only 12% said they thought it was perfectly acceptable, especially if they check them at a time when what is being said isn’t applicable to them.  A further four in 10 of those surveyed said it’s OK to read messages during a meeting, but only if the message was urgent.

Rachel Stockell, Senior Manager at OfficeTeam, said: “It’s clear that there is a fine balance between productivity and distraction when checking emails during meetings. The increasing accessibility via mobile devices has widened the parameters of the working day, but employees must be aware of the broader impact it has, including how their actions are perceived by their managers and colleagues.  As company cultures differ, it’s important that guidance is offered to employees on acceptable meeting behaviour, and that the use of mobile devices usage could be deemed inappropriate.

“The majority of HR directors surveyed said they had witnessed colleagues checking messages on their phones during meetings, but only a small number felt it was perfectly acceptable. Employees should err on the side of caution and decide whether responding to that email at that moment is more valuable or important than the meeting itself.”

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