E-mailing during meetings? Only one in 10 believe it is acceptable

20 November 2014
  • Four in 10 (41%) HR directors believe it’s only acceptable to read messages during a meeting if they are urgent
  • A quarter (25%) said it’s never acceptable and mobile devices should not be brought to meetings

London, 20 November 2014 – In today’s working environment, multi-tasking is an ever present discipline with the majority (78%) of UK HR directors finding it common for employees to read and respond to emails during meetings. This figure increases to 88% for medium sized companies, according to new research from OfficeTeam1, a Robert Half company, and leading recruitment agency specialising in administrative staffing.

However, 41% of HR leaders believe it’s only acceptable to read messages during a meeting if they are urgent and a quarter (25%) 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 (23%) 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 one in ten (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 (41%) of those surveyed said it’s OK to read messages during a meeting but only if the message was urgent.

HR directors were asked: “Which of the following most closely describes your reaction when professionals read and respond to email during business meetings?

 

Total

Company Size

 

 

Small

Medium

Large

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

12%

12%

15%

10%

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

41%

39%

40%

45%

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

23%

20%

27%

22%

It’s never OK. Email devices should be turned off or not brought to the meeting at all

25%

29%

19%

22%

Rachel Stockell, Senior Manager at OfficeTeam, commented: “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.”

- ENDS -

Notes to editors

1 The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 200 HR Directors across the UK, and is stratified by geography, company size and company type.

About OfficeTeam

OfficeTeam is the world's leading staffing service specialising in the placement of highly skilled office and administrative support professionals on a temporary and permanent basis. A division of Robert Half, the company leverages over 60 years of experience in providing recruitment solutions for companies across the UK and worldwide.