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Should laptops and phones be banned from meetings?

Imagine if you weren't allowed to bring your phone or laptop to your next meeting.

How are you going to get all your work done? What will you hide behind to avoid speaking? What if you miss an important email or phone call?

We can't be wasting time sitting around a conference table as our deadlines creep closer and our to-do lists grow. So we multitask. We do some work on our laptops or smartphones while still participating in the meeting.

Here's the thing: You likely aren't doing either task very well.

Research shows that trying to accomplish multiple tasks at once compromises productivity.

Just the presence of a smartphone is a distraction, according to Adrian Ward, an assistant professor in the marketing department at the University of Texas at Austin.

"The process of tuning it out sucks up our cognitive resources to try and pay attention to something else," he said. "We learn better without technology," he said.

Plus, staring at a screen means you aren't making eye contact, and your body language can be off-putting when you're hunched over a device.

"It's a barrier and you don't really know what the person is doing," said Barbara Pachter, author of "The Essentials of Business Etiquette."

Some companies are eliminating the distraction altogether, by banning technology in meetings.

No laptops. No cell phones. Just face time.

The idea is that if people aren't distracted, meetings will become shorter, more efficient and increase collaboration.

Employees at business media company Skift are generally not allowed to bring their laptops and phones to internal meetings.

"When people are staring at their laptops, or worse their phones ... it seems disrespectful and it can prevent a quick finish of the meeting," said CEO Rafat Ali.

The lack of technology has increased communication at meetings, according to Ali. "You have to actively create an environment where people feel free to talk. If you don't have rules about laptops, people hide behind them," he said.

Skift also has guidelines when it comes to meeting time limits. Internal one-on-one meetings can't be longer than 10 minutes, while team meetings can't go past the 25-minute mark. Employees are also asked to avoid sitting in more than one hour of meetings a day.

When people are working on their devices during a meeting, they often ask for questions to be repeated or bring up topics that have already been discussed, making the meeting drag on unnecessarily.

At mortgage company United Shore, employees also aren't allowed to bring laptops or phones to meetings.

"If we can make what used to be an hour-long meeting take 30 minutes, that means employees are able to do something else, and it's making us more productive," said Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of United Shore.

Taking a break from meetings altogether can also be helpful — and refreshing.

Every Thursday is a no-meeting day for Ishbia.

"It's my favorite day by far," he said. "I get so much done. I walk the floor, talk to people, I hear ideas and challenges and that is a big day for me. I look forward to it every week."

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