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5 Ways to Get People to Put Phones Away + Listen


It’s Monday morning. You are at the office and have some important news to break at the weekly team meeting. You look up around the room before you begin.  Most of the team are looking at their phones others have their laptops out and are busy typing away.

The attraction of mobile technology including the fear of missing out is becoming harder to resist. Research from Apple states that on average we check and unlock our phones 80 times per day.

Time to act? Here are 5 techniques to beat digital distractions in the workplace;

Technique 1: Increase phone usage awareness

We all need to look at our phones and check for messages. However, the question is are we consciously making this choice or has it now become our automatic default mode?

One way to check in on this is to analyse daily phone usage.  A free app by Moment does just this. It can let you know how much of your day is spent on the phone, how many times it is picked up and also which apps you use the most.. I clocked in at 36 times yesterday. Clearly work still to be done!

Technique 2: Multi tasking is a myth – Tell your audience this

10-15 years ago, multi-tasking was THE buzzword in business. I remember taking great pride in trying to batch tasks and complete as many as possible at once. However, it turns out that the mind is unable to do two things at once. I was fooling myself into thinking I could do more. 

And….. it gets worse. Not only are humans unable to multi-task but also that innocent “quick” WeChat check could cost you around 25 minutes of productivity. 

How? Research shows that the interruption may only take 1-2 minutes but your brain then needs a “recovery time” of something like23. Total 25 minutes.

Technique 3: Lay down the law!

Easier to put forward and implement if you are a manager, harder if you are communicating with peers. By informing people (nicely +respectfully) at the start of the meeting that laptops, phones will not be needed then at least later you can remind them to stop mid-way through or during your meeting.

Technique 4: Take a break

When people get bored they get distracted. When they get distracted they turn to their phone. Mixed research out there on how long we can concentrate for without a break but after around the 45 min mark, a timeout will probably be needed. The type of meeting and time of day will be of importance.

By allowing and sticking to break times, people can then check their phones for emergencies. See technique 5 – the final suggestion.

Technique 5: PhoneDrop/Phone pocket

Here as you can see in the picture, staff put their phones into numbered lockers/pouches at the beginning of the meeting. 

Then during the pre-determined break or at the end of the meeting, they collect them.

This is a more drastic approach. On the one hand, staff may feel that responsibility has been taken away from them. Yet on the other, there is absolutely no chance of being distracted.

In summary, many of the companies I work with cite digital distractions as a major productivity challenge. Surely if you are an average phone user and are checking your phone 80 times a day, you can agree that is a little excessive. Time to act.

Would be great to hear from you on this topic. Have you tried any of the above? Does your company have any other proven techniques? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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