It is common to see people in meetings being distracted by technology, and not giving their full attention. Most would agree it’s rude to take out a phone at a family dinner, but at work, because of the mountain of emails we get, we let each other multi-task during meetings, because it seems more efficient.
It is estimated that office workers can spend up to 40% of their time going through their emails, which means in a five-day week you’re only starting “proper” work on Wednesday.
Recently, research has found that the term “multi-tasking” isn’t possible, as our brains can’t actually do two things at once. Instead we are “rapid task switching” when trying to be on emails and participate in meetings at the same time. Scientists have shown that people who multi-task have trouble paying attention, and are not processing information as effectively they could be.
So why do we feel so compelled to keeping checking our phones, and find it impossible to put them away? Blame dopamine, the reward and pleasure chemical in the brain. Each new notification gives us a shot of dopamine while checking and replying. This digital dependency can become addictive as humans love novelty as well as being needed. We become digitally dependent because the instant pleasure is easier to focus on than the more difficult discussion needed at a meeting, which can’t be answered with a quick text or well-chosen emoticon.
To overcome digital dependency, start a digital detox during meetings. Quality face to face time is rare. Let’s value it and respect each other by being present, putting away technology, and having a proper meeting.
Pam Hamilton, owner of “Workshop Cookbook” is the author of The Workshop Book, how to design and lead successful workshops.