Eighty-six percent of senior executives polled said it is common for professionals they work with to read and respond to e-mail messages during meetings.
However, close to one-third of this group (31%) disapprove of the practice. Thirty-seven percent of respondents feel its OK to respond to e-mail as long as the message is urgent; 23% of those polled said professionals should excuse themselves from the meeting before responding to e-mail.
The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, a provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project and interim basis. The national poll includes responses from 150 senior executives including those from human resources, finance and marketing departments with the nations 1,000 largest companies.
The least disruptive option is to avoid using handheld e-mail devices during meetings, but that may not always be possible for executives who must be accessible, said Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, in a statement. Professionals who may have to check e-mail during gatherings should alert their hosts and be as unobtrusive as possible.
Robert Half offers these additional tips for using mobile devices during meetings:
Be discreet. If you need to bring your mobile device to a meeting, set it on vibrate to avoid disturbing other attendees or the meeting leader.
Consider your audience. Your coworkers may be more forgiving of your need to respond to e-mail than a client, for example, so adjust your e-mail activity accordingly.
Respond only if its truly urgent. Its tempting to check every message that comes in, but avoid doing so unless theres a compelling reason.
Step out of the room. If you receive an urgent message during a meeting, step quietly out of the room to reply.
Know when to let go. Spending a considerable amount of time checking e-mail will make those you are with feel unimportant. Its better to bow out of a meeting altogether than be distracted during most of it.