Could banning mobiles make your meetings more productive?

Most businesses rely heavily on face-to-face meetings, but with various distractions it can be hard to make sure that they are productive. This is why Virgin Mobile Australia introduced ‘Mobile Free Meetings’, where meeting organisers can opt to ban devices from their meetings. We caught up with Jordan Kerr, their social media and content marketing manager, to find out more…

What led to you implementing the idea of Mobile Free Meetings?

I think as a Virgin business we have a responsibility to look at the products we sell, and their impact, to ensure we’re contributing to the overall enrichment of people’s lives, not the detriment. One trend we have seen here in Australia is the ‘digital overload’ where people just get overwhelmed by people having access to reach them 24 hours a day or constant notifications from apps. So in order for us to help our customers manage this situation we needed to make sure we were ‘walking the walk’ so it was introduced with a bunch of other initiatives, including not sending emails before 7am and after 7pm.

What was the reaction when it was first suggested – did everyone agree?

While I think not everyone was as passionate as me about the idea they could also relate to being in meetings where a mobile was a distraction and so could understand the need for it.   

How does it work in practice?

It’s opt in. So if you are having a meeting where you asking for a lot of input, or it’s a creative meeting and you really need everyone’s brain in the room you can request a ‘Mobile Free Meeting’ which means attendees aren’t allowed to bring a phone into the room. The request goes into the meeting invite.

Read more: How to connect with co-workers and save your meetings

How has it affected meetings – are they quicker and more productive?

Mobile Free Meetings are definitely more productive – you use the time so much better! It’s also had another really good benefit in that meeting organisers respect people’s time more and their commitment to the meeting and run better meetings. We’ve all been in those meetings where it could have been run better and this policy also helps in that regard.

Do you think other companies could benefit from introducing Mobile Free Meetings?

Absolutely! They should at least have the option to make it ‘ok’ to request mobile free meetings. Ultimately, it’s about respect for you time and everyone else’s time, and who couldn’t benefit from that?

Do you think that it’s ever appropriate to use a mobile during a meeting?

It really depends on the formality of the meeting and your relationship with the people, but on the whole I think it is getting more and more acceptable as phones go from being just a device to make calls on to include functionality that may be helpful during the meeting (for example; your calendar to plan the next meeting). But they can be a distraction because they take concentration away from what’s being said – and then you see a notification that you just got a Facebook message, or a Tinder match, or a new Pokemon and before you know it, 20 minutes has gone by and you have no idea why everyone is looking at you and why the meeting organiser is asking you if they need to repeat the question.    

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