By Jul DeGeus
Some might argue that professionalism is one of the keys to success in the business world. Knowing the rules of business etiquette can set you apart from other employees, but one of the most commonly abused etiquette rules is the use of cell phones. While you should refer to your company’s rules and regulations for instruction regarding cell phone usage, these are some best practices:
Cellphone Volume and Ringer/ Ringtone
There’s nothing worse than sitting at your cubicle, working on a report in a silent office and having your phone ring. Anxiously, you bustle around through your personal items, quickly trying to hush it. You apologize for disturbing everyone and, red-faced, you get back to work hoping you won’t be made fun of later for your choice of ringtone. Two main rules of etiquette can be learned in this situation:
- Always remember to silence your phone- Make turning your phone to “silent mode” part of your morning routine to save you some shame. Breakfast, shower, brush your teeth, check your phone, grab coffee and head to work.
- Pick a professional ring/text tone- While you might know all the words to “Baby Got Back,” and even have a choreographed dance paired with it for special occasions, your ringtone reflects your professionalism. Keep it generic to keep it professional.
Also keep in mind that setting your phone to “vibrate” is not the same as “silencing” your phone. While it is harder for some to pick up the sounds, vibrations are audible, especially if sitting on a tabletop surface.
When and Where to Use Your Cell
Lunch time is the perfect time to take or make personal calls. Most lunches are “off the clock” which is the ideal time to make your calls. Just be aware of your surroundings and understand that in a cafeteria or restaurant setting, others have the opportunity to hear part or all of your conversation. A personal or secluded space, such as your car, will allow for more privacy.
Most companies allow you to use your phone on break, but take into consideration how long you use your phone. Generally, breaks are 15 minutes. If you exceed this time, it is likely that your boss will notice and could result in discipline.
It’s not the best idea to use your phone when in your cubicle. A neighbor can pop their head over the separator and gaze your screen or overhear a chat you are having. Additionally, you do not want to interrupt your peers’ concentration by carrying out a loud, disruptive dialogue.
People often use restrooms to have conversation on their phone. While this seems private, voices can carry through the buildings ventilation system. Not to mention, if your office shares a single or limited number of stalls, you could be holding up someone who needs to use the restroom.
There’s always an exception to the rule and when it comes to cell phones, emergencies are the exception. If there is some sort of emergency that causes your phone to ‘blow up,’ communicate this with your boss so they are aware of why you are on your phone.
Say you are in a meeting and someone vaguely refers to information you know you have access to via your cell phone. In situations like this, it’s ok to use your phone to access the information, so long as you announce that that is what you are doing. Something as simple as, “I’ll get those exact numbers for you,” or, “I have that email, let me pull it up,” will let everyone in the meeting know you are using your phone to enhance the meeting, rather than ignore it.
When interacting with people, give them your full attention. Try not to use your phone as a timepiece and avoid your smart watch; if you spend too much time looking at your smart watch, people will assume you are checking a text message and ignoring them. Finally, as sneaky as you may be, don’t read text messages under the table, behind a coffee cup or in back of portfolio or clip board.