Why people use mobile device during meetings

July 5th, 2009 - 10:56 am ICT by ANI  

Washington, July 5 (ANI): It’s not communication overload but peer behaviour that determines whether people use their laptops or smart phones during a meeting, say researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.

It was believed that the more people experienced communication overload, the more they would engage in electronic multitasking during meetings.

But the study on individuals from a diverse range of organizations-including engineering, finance, software, energy, marketing and health care-debunked that view.

It was found that the perceived opinions of peers and supervisors and observation of others using their mobile devices in a meeting was what influenced an individual’s tendency to multi-task.

“There’s no doubt the ubiquity of mobile devices is changing the nature of workplace meetings. What we’ve found is that simply feeling overloaded with messages coming from channels such as e-mail, texts and instant messages is not the primary driver for multitasking in meetings,” said Keri Stephens, assistant professor of communication studies in the College of Communication.

The study is particularly informative as organizational norms overshadowed individual-level predictors, which might be due to the unique nature of portable technology.

For decades, people have been using non-technology communication-pens and paper-to multitask in meetings.

The research suggests that employee behaviour is likely to change if organizations ban mobile technologies, and set new norms for how they can be used during meetings.

The research comes in line with the news that organizations are banning mobile devices or going lap “topless” in meetings to get participants’ undivided attention.

While banning mobile devices will likely eliminate unproductive behaviour, the researchers have warned that it can stifle legitimately productive behaviour that can enhance the meeting process.

One of the key findings of the study is that prior to a meeting, facilitators need to communicate clearly about whether using mobile devices is acceptable or not.

Meetings also need to include the right content for the right people, as well as engaging material.

The report, titled ‘The Social Influences on Electronic Multitasking in Organizational Meetings’, has been published in the August issue of Management Communication Quarterly. (ANI)

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