These 3 CEOs banned smartphones in meetings. Here's how it helped (and how it backfired).

Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Jan. 7, 2019.

by Kate Vonderhaar and Micha'le Simmons

While smartphones can help workers get their job done anywhere at any time , they can also be incredibly distracting in the workplace—leading some CEOs to ban their presence in meetings, John Simons reports for the Wall Street Journal.

4 ways to be a less-stressed leader

The mobile app research firm Dscout estimates people spend an average of about 2 hours and 25 minutes per day interacting with their smartphones. And as Simons reports, inevitably, some of that use occurs during work hours. In fact, a 2016 survey from CareerBuilder found smartphones are the leading productivity killer in the workplace.

But some managers are seeking to reclaim that lost time and increase their team's productivity by restricting—or in some cases banning—smartphone use at work.

How managers are tackling smartphones in the office

Bill Hoopes, an IT project manager at L3 Technologies, created a rule in meetings when he took over a team of about 25 people: "Every time someone's phone went off, they had to stand for the rest of the meeting," he said. Eventually, Hoopes asked his group to leave their phones at their desks during any meetings of two or more people. Over time, Hoopes said he noticed an improvement in the quality of conversation and ideas presented in meetings, as well as a greater respect and appreciation among team members.

Mat Ishbia, CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, banned phones from meetings about two years ago and told his managers and executive team not to check their phones while they're working.

More recently, Ishbia has implemented an experimental policy in which a group of around 250 workers are told to not use their personal phones at their desks, but rather use them in a specific common area designated for phone use and socializing. After 45 days of the experiment, Ishbia said that he has noticed that employees are checking their phones a lot less.

Jason Brown, CEO of Brown, Parker & DeMarinis, implemented a similar policy after he "lost it" at a meeting during which the majority of his coworkers were on their phones. He issued a company-wide rule, banning all phones from meetings, saying, "If someone shows up with their phone, it'll be their last meeting."

But the restriction didn't play out quite as Brown had expected: Brown's coworkers began wearing smartwatches or bringing their laptops to meetings, which were equally as distracting. Brown himself began missing his phone too, and he ultimately altered his edict to encourage employees to attend meetings only if they truly need to be there and can fully engage.

Bryan Lee, a product manager at Docker, took a different approach. He challenged his team to download an app that measures the total amount of time a person spends on their phone. The team posts their daily phone hours on a whiteboard. Lee said that they're "thinking of having a trophy we can pass around—or maybe just shaming the loser."

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