At Pivotal Labs we have a basic policy for meetings, No Laptops Allowed.
At first this seemed harsh to me, and for business- inefficient. Within my first three weeks though, I’ve been converted. I’ve learned that the benefits of this rule are felt by team members and clients alike.
We all know that the multi-function, connected devices we love are distracting. Personally, I hate missing something important someone said during a meeting because I was reading an email or researching what I thought was a crucial factoid. Would that have happened if I didn’t have my laptop or smartphone out?
It seems the easiest way to avoid this feeling and encourage 100% engagement is to remove distractions. Few things can draw someone’s attention away as quickly as their email or the internet.
During meetings, it is important that everyone stays engaged. That way, everyone can share their perspectives on risks and opportunities for minimizing them. When someone is paying attention, they can alert the team of something they know of that can help or hurt the project if not addressed.
Beyond that, at Pivotal we emphasize that meetings are about teams and healthy communication. Meetings center on the team working together. When my laptop was open in my first few meetings, it was seen as disruptive to team dynamics. I had put up a barrier which prevented my integration into the team.
I like many of you thought that I was using my laptop to take notes and therefore it was ok. But, because no one could tell that notes were the only thing I was typing, it became distracting to others. Additionally, one of the visiting clients took my laptop’s presence as an invitation to bring his computer in as well. This meant that a crucial team member ended up responding to emails and surfing the web, when his attention needed to be in the meeting.
After a meeting, one of the Pivots on my team came over to offer me some feedback about this. She reminded me that each conference room has tons of index cards, pens, and markers for everyone to write notes. In today’s modern age, it’s amazing what the old fashioned pen and paper can do.
Before I sign off on my first blog post, I want to emphasize that there are reasons (even at Pivotal) where a laptop is welcome at a meeting. These reasons generally include when the laptop is used as the source for a projection the team is looking at together and as a way for a remote team member to dial in. When in use, we try to turn off distracting notifications to keep focus on the meeting.
Try out some laptop free meetings where you work and tell me how it goes…