Practicing Courtesy in the AEC Workplace

Everything is a phone nowadays—from our computers to our watches. In light of all this technology at our fingertips, it's essential to use our devices with care whenever our clients or coworkers need our full attention.


When it comes to your actual phone, make sure it is out of sight unless you use it to assist your client or coworker. Multiple studies conducted over the years show that merely having our phone in the room with us adds a layer of distraction to our focus—it is not enough to have your phone face-down on the table. If you are in a meeting, have your phone away in your bag or at least your pocket. Out of sight, out of mind.


Whenever possible, put your phone on Do Not Disturb during meetings and discussions with a client. Accurately consider your priorities: if a phone call came in while a client was informing you of a concern, which is of greater importance to you—continuing to listen to their needs carefully, or checking to see if it is your boss who is calling? You can always call someone back, but it isn't easy to repair a client's perception that you are not paying attention or valuing their time.


If your meeting or site walk-thru will be taking the majority of the day, schedule short breaks ahead of time.By establishing the expectation that everyone will review emails/texts/phone calls during pre-determined intervals, you will find your time together is more focused and productive. 


Concerning other electronics, their multi-purpose technology and appeal make them a logical presence. If students in college perform better when taking notes by hand and on paper than on a device, you probably will too. Use your laptops and tablets sparingly whenever your attention is most needed. If you need them, you need them, but if you can shut them off, put them away, and pull out a notebook, all the better.


So, what's the breakdown? When you meet with a client or your team to discuss anything, you must show them attentiveness and respect. Here are our summarized tips to best make that happen:

  • Have your phone put away and out of sight.
  • Put your phone on Do Not Disturb unless you are expecting a call of particular importance; communicate with your team or client that you are expecting a call.
  • Take physical notes whenever possible, rather than electronic. If you must use an electronic device for note-taking, practice attentiveness—look up from the screen as often as necessary.
  • Schedule pre-determined breaks if you find your time takes you away from your connectivity for too long.
  • Communicate your phone standards with clients and your team if they have your number to contact you. Let them know that you will not be reachable during specific tasks—they should respect and appreciate your priorities.


Our commitment to client service and responsiveness is a high priority in the AEC Industry, so technology is fundamental. However, being "in the moment" is part of that commitment as well.  Use your time wisely and focus your attention on what matters most in that moment.

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