Use Proper Cell Phone Etiquette at Work

Cell Phones Are Becoming Embedded in Our Culture – For Better or Worse

Emily Post, the master of personal and professional etiquette for a generation, would probably approach meltdown if she witnessed some of the vagaries of current cell-phone use. Peggy Post, director of the Emily Post Institute, is possibly more delicate when she says, “We’re hearing more and more stories about cell phones in the workplace.” As you might guess, most of these stories are less than complementary.

Director of the information center at the Society for Human Resource Management, Rebecca Hastings, is much more direct. “Right now, cell phones are the cigarettes of this decade,” she offers. “It’s an addiction.” Ms. Hastings is compiling even more problem data than Ms. Post.

Although the common impression is this “addiction” is the exclusive purview of the country’s teenage population, the facts indicate that the work place is a growing incubator for similar behavior. Employees should be wary of allowing improper cell phone etiquette to damage their careers. Whether or not a company cell phone policy exists, employees should learn proper etiquette to ensure that their climb up the corporate ladder is not hindered or halted.

The Top Eight Rules of Proper Cell Phone Etiquette at Work

A recent study showed that at least 40% of U.S. companies now have a published cell phone usage policy at work. That percentage will most certainly rise in the near future. It might be more difficult for the employees of the majority of firms that have yet to adopt an acceptable use policy. To avoid suffering a career detour from unacceptable cell phone use in your office, consider the following generally accepted rules of good cell phone behavior.

  1. Turn your ringer OFF or set to “vibrate”. Unless your cell phone is a company-issued handset for business use, set your unit to vibrate while at your desk. Even if you’ve selected a tasteful ring tone, repetitive incoming calls will be noticed (negatively) by co-workers and management.
  2. Let “bread and milk” and other unimportant calls go to voicemail. While it’s wonderful to have a live connection to the important people in your life, children, parents, other family and friends, frequent chatty calls during your workday will often reflect negatively on your perceived concentration on your duties.
  3. When you must use your cell phone, find a private, quiet place to make your calls.  Regardless of where you are, most etiquette advisors agree you should always observe the “ten-foot rule”. Maintain a buffer zone of at least ten feet from others while you’re using your cell phone. While at work, you should make every attempt to expand basic etiquette and find locations that do not infringe on co-workers trying to perform their jobs.
  4. Don’t bring your cell phone to meetings. Neglecting this one rule can do career damage even when you adhere to most of the other recommendations. Some etiquette gurus recommend that, should an important call be expected, either for business or a family emergency, you could put your cell phone on “vibrate” and bring it with you. Treat this exception with extreme caution, however. Regardless of the urgency of the expected call, your boss will most certainly take a very dim view of a meeting interruption because of your cell phone. It is a far better idea to leave your cell phone at your desk to avoid any “interruption temptation”.
  5. Never use your cell phone in restrooms. This rule may, at first, appear frivolous, but the statistics indicate it is an important component of cell phone etiquette. Why? You often do not know who else may be using the facilities. Should you communicate private information or sensitive work issues, you may easily be overheard without your knowledge. There are some well-documented horror stories of information delivered into the wrong hands by this simple, innocuous rule violation.
  6. Eliminating embarrassing ring tones. Should you have a psychological need to use a cutesy or outrageous ring tone while away from your job, be very careful when you are at work. Either keep your cell phone on vibrate at all times at work or change to a more professional ring tone during your work day. Along with annoying both co-workers and supervisors, a silly ring tone can negatively impact your career by displaying a less than professional, serious image to management.
  7. Maintain a low voice during cell phone conversations. Often called “holding court”, having loud conversations about nothing, a loud voice can be extremely annoying to anyone within earshot. Often, the ten-foot rule becomes useless during one of these situations. Unless you are in the middle of a loud construction site, you should understand that cell phone microphones are very sensitive and only inches away from your mouth. There is normally no need to increase your voice to levels used by seminar leaders talking without microphones.
  8. Use text messages instead of voice calls to maintain professionalism. If you need to communicate on a personal level and understand that voice calls would be inappropriate, send a text message to your caller. It’s quiet, fast, and to the point. Unless you’re trying to set a world’s record for the largest thumbs on the planet, a few text messages during the workday keeps your lines of communications open without wasting your time or annoying co-workers.

Try to remember that, through most of recorded history, the world of business operated quite effectively without constant cell phone use. The basic substance of successful business operations contains no requirement that cell phones contribute mightily to your company’s bottom line. Be ready for a formal company policy regarding cell phone use at work. More and more firms, many reaching unacceptable levels of frustration, will be joining those who have already published regulations and publishing restrictive policies.

By following the current rules of good cell phone etiquette, you’ll not only be ahead of the curve, you may enhance your professional standing at work by displaying this considerate behavior. Some of your cell phone etiquette may even be transferred to your friends who might be in need of some guidelines, too.


© 2015 Kelly Services, Inc.