Social and Psychological Benefits of Leaving Your Phone Out of Meetings

Every organization has its own rules—its own way of doing things. One rule at Paris Marketing is to never—and I mean NEVER—bring your phone to a meeting. And it’s not just our #CreativeBrandWarriors that must follow this rule. When we meet with clients, they too leave their phones at the door.

I remember the first time our Commander-in-Chief, Lisa Woodford, told me not to take my phone to meetings. Initially, I thought to myself: “Aren’t we working in the digital world? Why shouldn’t I bring my phone to a meeting? If I have to look something up, well, I can’t do that very well without a phone….”, but it didn’t take many meetings before I realized how effective this rule was in keeping participants involved and invested in the conversation at hand.

Lisa has always emphasized the power of this rule. Every one of us—whether client or coworker—is bombarded with emails, meetings, phone calls, and a smorgasbord of other things on a daily (or hourly) basis. But when a meeting is planned, all other things should be put to the side until it has concluded. This ensures focus is upheld. All parties involved in a meeting deserve the respect of undivided attention. And having phones in a meeting does nothing to help maintain that attention or give your meeting-mates the respect they deserve.

Lisa’s #1 rule: no phones at meetings.  It’s ultimate purpose: respect.

We’ve covered the social reasoning for this rule, now I’d like to give you some additional information which adds validity to it. You don’t need me to cite a scientific source supporting the following statement: phones are distracting. We all know that. But what if I told you a study was undertaken to see exactly how those distractions impact our ability to function and learn at optimal capacity? That’s exactly what the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research did, and I think you’ll be surprised to learn what they found out.

The Journal of the Association for Consumer Research undertook a study to determine how the location of a person’s phone in their workplace (the workplace for this study was a college) impacts their cognitive ability throughout the day. In the study, 500 participants (students) were randomly assigned to do one of three things: 1.) Keep their smartphone face down on their desk, 2.) Keep their smartphone in another room, or 3.) Keep their smartphone in their bag or pocket. Then, the participants completed two tasks designed to measure their available cognitive capacity. These tasks including a letter sequence task and a series of math problems. At the end of the experiment, the results were undeniable: those who left their phone in another room performed better than those who had their phone on their desk or in their bag or pocket.

Let’s get a little more granular regarding the results of this experiment. The study found that participants whose phone was left outside the room had an 11% higher working memory performance than participants who left their phone face down on their desk, and 9% higher than participants whose phone was kept in a bag or pocket. Participants who left their phone outside the room also performed at a 7% higher rate of problem-solving than those whose phone was left on their desk, and 2% higher than participants who left their phone in a bag or pocket. The study shows that our ability to think and perform is directly affected by the presence of a smartphone. And those who keep those phones out of the room perform better.

So, there you have it, we now have a social reason for leaving phones out of meetings (respect for others) AND we have information which proves we function at a higher level with phones out of the room. So, when you’re headed to your next meeting, it would serve you well to take this advice from our Commander-in-Chief: Leave your phone at the door.


Until next time, this is Eric Troy, signing off 🖋️📖✌️