Cell Phone Etiquette in the Workplace

By Amanda Cardini, Staff Writer

About a year ago, my dad sent me a video he found on Facebook. This is not out of the ordinary for my dad; I actually rolled my eyes when I saw it because I’m so used to him sharing articles, videos, etc., with my siblings and I to impart some seemingly random piece of wisdom. This video was no exception—upon pressing play I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes again as I saw the headline “Millennials in the Workplace.” Millennials frequently get a bad rap, being constantly blamed for one thing or another whether it be laziness or the lagging housing market. Because of my experience with these types of claims, I was wary as I watched.

The video was of Simon Sinek, an author, motivational speaker and marketing consultant. He made several claims throughout the course of the video, including that millennials were raised with failed parenting, grow to have impatient personalities, and are then forced into corporate environments in which they will always be unhappy. Whether these claims have a basis in fact or not, the one part of the video that has stuck with me for the past year was about cell phone etiquette. 

Courtesy of Career Builder

It’s no surprise that cell phone use is currently the number one cause of decreases in productivity in the workplace. The use of cell phones has become increasingly integrated into our everyday lives in the business world, whether to take and make phone calls or check emails. Even texting has become more acceptable between business professionals and their clients or colleagues. Despite the endless uses of cell phones, there are still many situations in which cell phones are viewed as inappropriate or disrespectful. Upon watching his video, I couldn’t help but agree with Simon Sinek’s points on exercising caution with mobile devices.

It’s an Addiction

Apple claims that iPhone users unlock their phones 80 times a day. Our phones are constantly on our minds as we incessantly check texts or social media, and there is a chemical explanation for this obsessive behavior. Dopamine, the same chemical released in other addictions such as substance abuse or gambling, is released when we receive a text or a like on social media. Similar to other addictions, fueling the fire runs the risk of ruining relationships and costing ourselves time, money and happiness.

Missed Opportunities

In the working world, there are unfortunately many business professionals that not only bring their cell phones into meetings, but set them out on the table the entire time, or worse, check it under the table. Despite cell phones becoming more integrated into the business world, the implications of this behavior are often still considered disrespectful. Forbes even goes so far as to say that the most successful people know better than to bring their phones into meetings. Aside from projecting an attitude of the meeting not being important to you, being on your cell phone up until a meeting starts causes you to miss out on time in which you could be engaging with your colleagues. Another claim about millennials is that we have a harder time building deep, meaningful relationships because we are so used to turning to our devices. Small talk is an important part of building a relationship; the “space between things” argument states that it is in these moments that creativity blossoms, ideas are shared and connections are made.

Courtesy of Compliance Signs

Finding the Balance

Cell phones aren’t all bad. In no way is this meant to suggest that phones should be completely banned from the workplace; they have become an integral part of many jobs. However, there is an imbalance in how frequently they are used. Although many believe there is no place for cell phones at all in a meeting, if you absolutely must bring it, err on the side of caution by keeping it out of sight and utilizing the time before your meeting starts to get to know your colleagues. Try not to check your phone consistently throughout the work day and instead only when absolutely necessary or on your lunch break.

Every company has a different culture and policy surrounding cell phone use: some are banning them altogether, others are eliminating office landlines to be replaced with mobile devices. Cell phones will continue to be essential in the workplace, but as business professionals we can do our part to make sure we are not disrespecting our bosses, colleagues and clients. Being on your phone nonstop can foster an addiction and significantly decrease productivity. It can cost you relationships, some that you may not have another chance to fix, and rather importantly, it can give you an unfavorable reputation at your workplace. While there are certainly differing opinions among millennials and other generations, it’s understandable why cell phones can be perceived as rude. Call it old school, but there’s a time and a place for appropriate cell phone use.

One thought on “Cell Phone Etiquette in the Workplace

  1. Yes! Thank you! I’m glad you mentioned dopamine. Our devices are hard-wiring a short-circuit into our brains reward seeking behavior from a very early age. We don’t know the full effects of that yet, but early indications sure don’t seem good. Delayed gratification is a fundamental “executive” function of the brain that is key to building towards future success. But…why bother delaying gratification when I can just check my phone!!!!!

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