Smartphone Etiquette for the Workplace

We were all sitting around a table in our Executive Vice President’s office when a brilliant idea was shared. Immediately hands flew to their iPhones, and fingers began typing documents and emails. No one wanted to wait till we were back in our cubicles and in front of our laptops to log the idea; we had our easiest tool for business communication in front of us, and there was no reason not to use it.

The other week we learned that smartphones are not only here to stay in the workplace, but are predicted to take over as the top communicative tool for business by 2014. Still, there are people in every office that continue to perceive smartphone use as personal time no matter what those thumbs are clicking on. How do we persuade those people to embrace our move into the future and hop on the productivity train themselves? We convince them by acting as respectfully as possible when using our smartphones in places that were previously considered inappropriate. Here are three areas to consider:

#1. Cubicles and Offices: Despite maintaining your best poker face, everyone around you knows when you’re playing Angry Birds on your iPhone. For those smartphone nonbelievers, this is the proof they need to justify that our mobile devices don’t belong in the office. Show these people they are wrong by resisting the urge to use your smartphone personally throughout the day. If that’s not an option for you, block out a chunk of time at lunch to play games and respond to your non-work related text messages and emails. If your phone buzzes way too often, explain to your serial texting friends and family members that you use your mobile device for work during business hours and would prefer not to receive hourly updates on their golf game.

#2. Presentations: iMeet’s Evernote application makes it easy to take, share and save notes in your iMeet room when attending a meeting from your desk, but when the meeting is in person and a lot of people are attending, it’s actually better to take notes on a smartphone or tablet during a presentation so that you don’t block other peoples’ view of the speaker with your laptop. Inform those seated around you that you’re using your mobile device for note taking as soon as you bring it out of your bag so that no one gets distracted by your misconceived “rude” behavior. Also, try to make frequent eye contact with the speaker to show you are in fact paying attention to what he or she is saying.

#3. Public or Outdoor Spaces: Although smartphones give us the ability to work whenever from wherever, don’t even think of reaching for your mobile device while in church or in a movie theater, on a date, in a classroom, using the restroom, or interacting with a cashier. And double check that your device is on mute in those places. I once heard Devo’s “Whip It” echo across a church sanctuary while everyone’s heads were bowed in prayer. Hilarious, but so inappropriate.

On the other hand, you should also be considerate when using your smartphone for work purposes during your personal time. The idea of a work/life balance is disappearing rapidly as we unify all parts of our lives through mobile technology. We’re tasking more efficiently because we can work during times and at places where it is most convenient and beneficial for us. Just be sure to give your friends and family the same attention you showed the presentation speaker above. Even though you can carry on business from the bleachers of your son’s basketball game, it doesn’t mean you have to.

Soon enough, smartphones will have a permanent spot in the workplace and no more eyebrows will be raised. Until then, none of us should be afraid to use our smartphones in the office, especially since these devices aid productivity. Just be diligent of your own time, mindful of coworkers and presenters and don’t let productivity keep you from fully engaging in your professional as well as personal relationships.

What do you think? Do you ever get stared down for using your smartphone at work? Does your office encourage mobile device use? Do you have an embarrassing story about your phone ringing in a taboo place? Share your thoughts on the PGi Blog!

Photo by Bloomberg

About Lea Green

Lea Green

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