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Moving in a downwardly mobile direction
I often wonder how we all got by and the world kept turning when we had no mobile phones, tablets or other such devices. Or to use a quote from Dara Ó Briain, “where did all the pulled pork come from and how did we all survive without it?” In fact, we got on just fine with not being contactable 24/7. We didn’t miss the pulled pork either.
Mobile devices are the perfect example of that combination of ‘a blessing and a curse’. As reported by your intrepid scribe Catherine Reilly in the last issue of the Medical Independent, senior national managers in the HSE were told by the HSE Director General Tony O’Brien that using their mobile phones and tablets for matters “not directly related to Directorate and Leadership Team meetings” was not on, or to put it in his words, “affects the effective consideration of items and is not acceptable”.
This reminded me of an article published in Forbes in 2014, titled ‘How to get People Off Their Phones in Meetings Without Being a Jerk’. I shall synopsise the main points, which hopefully will provide some helpful tips for the esteemed Mr O’Brien.
1. Establish the ground rules before the meeting starts. Let the attendees know that the result of the Liverpool match is not germane to emergency department overcrowding, the trolley crisis or Australian flu.
2. Enforce a ‘drop it at the door’ policy. This is a rule used by a number of world leaders, including ex-US President Barack Obama. Just keep plenty of yellow Post-Its for collection on the way out of the meeting. Or if there’s a journalist present, ask them to mind the phones while the meeting is in progress. I’m sure no harm could come of that…
3. Stick to the scheduled times for breaks. Those who are ‘email-addicted’ seem to suffer anaphylactic shock if they don’t check their email at least once every hour. Sticking to the scheduled break times will help to appease the disgruntled and they will return to the meeting sated. Caveat emptor: Discussions over coffee will take a serious hit as everyone’s face will be buried in their mobile.
4. Set a good example. This falls under the ‘needless to say’ category, but if you’re facilitating a meeting, put your own phone on silent or pop it into the ‘drop box’ on the way in.
Finally, I’ll add to this list with a suggestion of my own: Keep the bulls**t to a minimum. People’s minds are more likely to wander if you waffle on or simply read what’s on the slides that everyone can see anyway.
You’re welcome, Tony, and I am available for further consultation at a reasonable hourly rate.
It’s not just in the meeting room that mobile devices affect the quality of an interaction. Using a mobile device at home for work-related business has a negative impact, not only on your work life, but also that of your spouse.
A study of 344 married couples published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology last month showed that working full-time and using a mobile device at home for work leads to lower job performance, lower job satisfaction and impacts the quality of family-time. Annoying your spouse by doing this also affects the quality of their work life, say the authors, and employers should be aware of this and refrain from encouraging employees to use their devices at home.
And then there’s the teenagers. Yet another study by psychology professors at San Diego University in the US shows that teens who spend the most time staring at screens have lower levels of happiness than those who keep their screen-time proportionate. The happiest teens were those who kept the screen-time to one hour per day.
And then there are the children’s school plays and musical performances. Don’t get me started on the forest of phones and parents watching their children through a tiny screen.
Put the phone down — honestly, the resolution on the actual child is spectacularly clear.
Knead to know
A couple of jokes to finish off. Your contributions to the email address below are always most welcome.
A lawyer is standing in a long line at the box office. Suddenly, he feels a pair of hands kneading his shoulders, back and neck. The lawyer turns around angrily and asks: “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The man behind him says, “I’m a chiropractor and I’m just keeping in practice while I’m waiting in line.” The legal eagle replies: “Well, I’m a lawyer, but you don’t see me screwing the guy in front of me, do you?”
Two junior doctors are arguing in the hospital ward, so much so that their consultant has to pull them apart. “What’s all this about?” asks the consultant angrily. “It’s the tax inspector in the Chestnut Ward,” said one, “he only has a week to live.” “Well then,” says the consultant, “he has to be told.” The second junior doctor says, “I know, I want to be the one to tell him!”