Meetings

Is Workplace FOMO Causing Attendees to Miss Out?

By / Jul 29, 2016

Fear of missing out in the workplace is a real thing, but it’s not necessarily a good thing. It could leave your meeting attendees distracted if they’re constantly worried about what’s going on back at the office.

I’m sure you all have at least one person in your life who suffers from a severe case of FOMO, or fear of missing out.

If I had to pick that person, it would be my sister-in-law. And she’s the first to admit it. She wants to be a part of every text and email and conversation she can—and she hates when she’s not. Of course, her FOMO is harmless, and being the loving family that we are, we are sure to not only mock her about it but also egg it on (e.g., leave her off a group text).

But FOMO can also have its downsides.

Consider its negative impact in the office: Employees suffering from workplace FOMO are more stressed out and frazzled.

As David Lavenda, VP of product strategy at harmon.ie, put it last week on CMSWire:

“Workplace FOMO is driven by the fear of missing important tasks and lost opportunities: It’s all about the dread of incurring the wrath of customers, coworkers, and managers. To allay workplace FOMO, we unceasingly check our computers and phones for new updates. … Unlike consumer FOMO, at work we are not seeking a dopamine rush, but rather hoping to avoid a heart-pounding email or order cancellation notification that will disturb our peace of mind.”

Lavenda predicts workplace FOMO will get worse before it gets better, thanks to mobile devices and collaboration and messaging tools like Slack.

But, as meeting planners, you need to think beyond the office and consider how workplace FOMO can invade your conferences and events. Are attendees constantly so distracted by what’s going on back at work that they’re unable to connect to your meeting and make the most of the professional development opportunity?

What’s the Solution?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to cure workplace FOMO. After all, mobile devices aren’t going anywhere—and neither is people’s reliance on them.

You can take an extreme position, like requiring attendees to lock up their phones and tablets in a dedicated space before entering a session room. You could even consider something like Yondr, which allows attendees to put their phones inside a small bag that locks while they are in a phone-free zone but allows access once outside of that particular area. This technology has won fans from Alicia Keys to Dave Chappelle.

There is a downside to such a position, though. You take away attendees’ ability to share their experiences in social spaces in real time. Sure, they can tweet after the fact—and minus photos (what the what?!)—but does that cause your meeting to lose traction?

On the other hand, consider whether you can turn FOMO to your advantage. In other words, as you’re planning your conference, think about what you need to offer your attendees so that they come down with a severe case of meeting FOMO. How can you get them to turn off the office for a few days because they can’t imagine missing any part of your meeting?

I’d like to think that adults can be adults, and people who are at a conference are there to learn. There needs to be a balance. Sure, there may be an occasion when an email needs to be responded to immediately, but be respectful of your fellow attendees and the speakers, step out for a few minutes to take care of business, and then return ready to listen and engage.

How have you worked to combat workplace FOMO at your meetings? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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