Sometimes coworkers act like children during meetings: making faces, passing notes, laughing at…not with team members, and being just plain sassy. It helps to set ground rules.

There are a number of different areas to consider when establishing ground rules.

Here are just a few: required or optional attendance, promptness – individually and as a group, usual meeting location, standard meeting times, actions on assignments, time taken for breaks, interruptions by others, routine role rotation, agendas and preparations, note taking and minute writing, records storage, and any other activities that are unique to your staff and systems.

Consider as many of these issues as possible and you may come up with some ground rules like these: Meetings start on time, one person speaks at a time, everyone participates, three-minute rule – no one holds the floor for more than 3 minutes, prepare and distribute the agenda 24-48 hours in advance, minutes to be prepared and distributed within 24-48 hours, and meetings end on time.

Keep in mind that ground rules may need to change over time. Ground rules may need to be modified and may continue to evolve as individuals and issues come and go. Ground rules should be listed on the agenda, posted in the meeting room, and reviewed before each meeting.

Set ground rules with the meeting attendees. Ground rules are a consistent reminder to treat everyone with respect. Ground rules help people feel comfortable and produce useful results. We spend a lot of time in meetings and they should be productive. Ground rules make meetings a good use of time rather than a waste of time.