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8 Rules for Cellphone Use at Work

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Cellphones are a part of everyday life for most of us in 2015, yet many businesses still don't have policies where their use is concerned. Even if your company has laid out some rules, there are probably still some gray areas that leave you scratching your head. These tips could help you ensure you're not stepping on any toes, or offending anyone, while allowing you to keep using your phone at work.

Cellphones are a part of everyday life for most of us in 2015, yet many businesses still don’t have policies where their use is concerned. Even if your company has laid out some rules, there are probably still some gray areas that leave you scratching your head. These tips could help you ensure you’re not stepping on any toes, or offending anyone, while allowing you to keep using your phone at work.

cell phone on plane

(Photo Credit: nordique/Flickr)

Here are some rules for cellphone etiquette in the workplace.

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1. Consider an alternative time-checking device.

You know, like a watch or a clock? Many people use their phone to check the time these days, but you could be giving the impression that you are more distracted, and that you’re using your phone a lot more, than you actually are. Try checking the wall clock instead. Or, maybe even considering dusting off one of your old watches that’s been sitting in a box for 10 years.

2. Switch the ringer to silent.

This item is rule number one for a lot of folks, and it is kind of obvious. All the more reason to never let that ringtone echo through the caverns of a meeting ever again. If the phone is sitting in front of you, or resting in your pocket, you should be able to tell when that urgent — or maybe not so urgent — call is coming through.

3. Do what the boss does — most of the time.

If it’s a casual meeting, sometimes it is OK to text a little, check emails, or search for something related to the conversation, on your phone. This is particularly true if your boss is doing the same. There are exceptions, though. Some supervisors don’t follow good cellphone etiquette rules, and their phone use angers other co-workers. Don’t take it too far just because the boss does. But, generally, following the lead set by your employer is a good rule of thumb.

4. Briefly explain what you’re up to.

If you are in a meeting, and you want to check an email or check something on the internet in order to further the conversation at hand, explain that before you take out your phone. Say, “I’m just going to double check that email,” for example, so that everyone knows that you’re not texting your dog walker and that you are actually on task. Transparency is always good.

5. Keep your voice down.

This is particularly true if you work in a cubicle. It is courteous to keep your voice down whenever you’re talking on a cellphone in public. You don’t want to disrupt others and dominate the space, whether you’re at dinner, on the subway, or at the office. Lowering your voice, or finding a private space to have your conversation, is just polite.

6. Lean on texting.

Texting works well in the office for the everyday stuff, such as grocery list changes, or check-ins about the evening’s plans. If you get a call, respond with a text and explain that you’re at the office and that texting works better for you when you’re at work. The people in your life will start to catch on, and will default to contacting you by text or email during daytime hours. Texting is great because you can respond when you have the time and the privacy to do so. It’s quick and not very disruptive. You can even keep the phone in a coat pocket, in your closet on a hook, and check it at your convenience before returning it to its place and getting yourself back to work.

7. Keep it appropriate.

A good rule is, don’t do anything with technology at work that you wouldn’t want everyone in the office to know about. Don’t go on any websites that you wouldn’t want everyone to know you’d visited, don’t send any emails that you wouldn’t want them to see, don’t even send a text that you’d feel funny about others reading. You are at work. Things happen. If your phone falls into the wrong hands, or someone looks over your shoulder, you don’t want to have to stomach that, “I’m busted,” feeling — it’s not fun. Also, your employers might be watching your internet use more than you think. Be safe and extra careful.

8. Extend the etiquette beyond the office.

These rules also apply, but can be loosened just a bit, when you’re with work people outside of the office. If you’re out to lunch for example, or on a business trip, remember that you’re still working. The same rules of etiquette apply here as they do in the office. While you’re at it, maybe consider curtailing cellphone use in your personal life as well. It’s important that your people there know you’re engaged and fully present with them too.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your rules for cellphone etiquette at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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I’m an supervisor over janitorial at an school, i have made my employees to sign an no cell phone policy form. It worked for an few months . i have caught them in the hallway, restroom, and classrooms while cleaning.So i have decided to take an more extreme measures, Rules 1st write up , 2nd send home for the rest of the day , 3rd home for two days. This is because this an place for work and if you are on your cell phone half of the day your work its’n getting done in an timely matter and you… Read more »

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