The reliance on Web-based interactions has seeped into the workplace. Almost everything is done via e-mail, social media, and texting. Face-to-face interactions have rapidly declined. Professionals try to keep up with communication from every angle and multi-tasking has become a fact of life. As a professional, when did you last you spend time with staff members, managers, colleagues, constituents, or clients without texting, checking a blog, or monitoring e-mail activity?
In the Kauffman Foundation’s 2012 Idea Execution Audit, creative professionals were surveyed to determine their working habits. 59% said they couldn’t do good work while multi-tasking. In addition, 56% said the most productive form of communication was in-person with e-mail coming in second at 27%. Instant messaging received a mere 4% and online project management tools were even lower on the list at 3%. Those surveyed stated that out of the 9 hours per day they work, only 5.5 hours are productive due to distractions such as e-mail. The Atlantic cited a study that found workers spend an average of 28% of their time per week and 650 hours per year checking and responding to e-mail. With smart phones and tablets, this means that even during meetings individuals are keeping tabs on virtual communications and aren’t truly present during face-to-face time.
Professor of international business, Christine Pearson, wrote in an article for the New York Times that texting, checking e-mail, or engaging in other activity on mobile devices during face-to-face meetings is seen by others as rude and damages work relationships. Pearson writes, “I’ve given lectures on incivility around the globe. When I ask audiences whether anyone considers sending e-mail or texts during meetings uncivil, almost everyone raises their hand. Then, when I ask whether anyone in the audience sends texts or e-mail during meetings, about two-thirds acknowledge the habit.”
Pearson says that people rationalize this behavior with the belief that multi-tasking increases productivity. Yet, neuroscientists have found that dividing our attention instead of focusing on a single task makes us less productive and efficient.
Executive Travel Magazine stated that, “85% of executives say it’s common for professionals to read and respond to e-mail on their mobile devices during business meetings.” While companies are still holding face-to-face meetings, the number of individuals who can’t part with their smart phones has increased dramatically.
In the Harvard Business Review Peter Bregman described his own experience with technological overload saying, “E-mail pours in, with no break to its flow. And like addicts, we check it incessantly, drawing ourselves away from meetings, conversations, personal time, or whatever is right in front of us.” He schedules his e-mail time and continues, “Outside my designated e-mail times I don’t access my e-mail – from any device – until my next scheduled e-mail session. I gain presence throughout my day. I am focused on what’s around me in the moment, without distraction. I listen more attentively…I’m more productive, more sensitive, more creative, and happier.” Implementing a strategy like Bregman’s or even banning mobile devices during face-to-face meetings can have a huge impact on professional communication.