Get off the phone: Distraction and productivity in the workplace
Now more than ever, companies are realising that business productivity is crucial to growth, and are pouring resources into increasing their employees' productivity. A meeting environment shows us the business productivity landscape in microcosm. People are often either actively engaged and willing to participate in industrious discussions, or sleepy, detached and visibly scrolling on their phones. Business meetings are the main instance of human interaction in a working day, and they set the tone for the wider workplace environment. Creating an engaging atmosphere in a meeting, therefore, is worth investing in.
Barco ClickShare recently commissioned a global study, surveying thousands of business professionals across the UAE, US, UK, France and Germany. The study isolated the most significant factors in driving meeting engagement, and found that many of these were tech-related. This was especially true in the UAE, where 55 per cent of respondents were likely to become disengaged by tech issues in a meeting - more than any other market. Interestingly, UAE respondents were also the most likely to become more engaged by multimedia content in a meeting.
These findings suggest that effective and reliable meeting room tech is a powerful tool that UAE businesses can harness to boost their productivity. However, the evidence suggests that local business leaders are not currently pursuing this opportunity - more business professionals in the UAE reported regular tech failures in meetings than in any other market. Companies should take heed and ramp up their meeting room tech capabilities in order to generate maximum employee engagement.
Something UAE businesses score well on, however, is the number of meetings per day. Many global workplace cultures encourage back-to-back meetings all day, causing 'meeting fatigue' and driving down engagement in 59 per cent of people globally. The study found the UAE to be the savviest market in this area, with only around 1 in 10 respondents attending 3 or more meetings per day.
In this hyperconnected age, it will not come as a surprise that people are glued to their phones during meetings. Worryingly, far from simply keeping up-to-date with e-mails, 30 per cent of UAE business professionals admitted to surfing social media during meetings. This is 8 per cent less than the global percentage, so UAE workplaces are slightly more engaged than in other markets. However, it shows that a portion of UAE employees are disengaged from meeting room collaboration and communication.
So, how can businesses use these findings to maximise employee engagement and productivity? Many of the study's findings are easy to act upon; for example, encouraging multimedia content in meetings will automatically drive engagement levels. Providing simple, reliable tech in meetings, for screen-sharing, conference calls and presentations, will reduce the number of tech-related distractions and foster workplace productivity. And enterprises should promote a 'quality over quantity' ethos whereby fewer meetings take place, but are more highly-focused, to promote engagement in the office.
Nevertheless, some of the survey's results were more cryptic. The UAE is the market with the highest proportion of people finding food distracting in a meeting. Some 44 per cent of UAE professionals have also admitted to only attending meetings for the food. Business leaders therefore must decide whether they are willing to use food as a bribe to drive meeting attendance, or whether they would prefer to avoid the lack of focus that may ensue.
To summarise, here are four tips for UAE businesses, big and small, on how to turbocharge their productivity and engagement:
. Utilise media content in presentations
. Ensure ease of use for meeting room tech
. Promote quality over quantity of meetings
. Be selective about the meetings for which you provide food
If enterprises follow these four steps, then increased levels of employee engagement and productivity will no doubt follow.
The writer is vice-president for the Middle East and Africa at Barco. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.