The Best At-Work Phone Etiquette & Rules.
With rise of new trends like 'open space' or 'open door' office policies, and the ever growing attachment to our cellphone, knowing how much we should publicly interact with our phones and what the appropriate etiquette to do so is - has become very complex.
Although it is true that the convenience of cellphones has made it possible to communicate with others any time and anywhere, it does not mean that we should do it all the time. In essence, we should not allow our personal or social life to distract us in our professional one.
Mastering the ability to shut out distractions and really focus on our work responsibilities is extremely challenging to almost everybody, specially since we constantly want to be checking in on our friends and love ones, the news, an online sale or even our side projects. However, being able to separate one from the other, will not only increase our productivity in each area, but it will also be a representation of our professionalism and dedication to our job.
Imagine this -- you are the manager of a large team, and when you walk into the office after a meeting you see half of your employees texting away on their phones, another group online exploring their social media and only a small group focused in work-related activities. Would you be concerned with the performance of those who were distracted? Would you have a more positive impression of those who were not?
The use of cellphones has become so common in our everyday lives, that in some cases we do not even realize when we do it or how we are interrupting our own thought process or that of others, which can be very disrespectful and counter productive. This is not to say that you have to completely shut off all communications while you are at work (we all need to be easily reached in case of a family emergency or last minute plans), however, work is the time and place in which we should be able to put away our phones and focus in the moment.
Here are a couple of tips to consider (specially if you are starting a new job and want to make a positive impression):
1. Turn your ringer down or set it in silent.
There is nothing more distracting than a phone ringing incessantly in a shared office space, specially if any of your coworkers is in the middle of a meeting or a work call. Likewise, if your phone rings during a conference or team meeting, it could throw off the speaker and those participating (and will draw everyone's attention to you or the person carrying the phone). Also, if you decide to leave the ringer on, be aware of your choice of ringtone -- avoid disrespectful or vulgar ringtones that could be offensive to others.
2. Do not make or answer personal phone calls (unless it is absolutely necessary).
If you do not have your own office space, chances are that anyone around you will be able to hear most of the conversation and it will be distracting to others. If you need to answer a non-work-related phone call during work hours, it is best if you step out to a private space to answer or call back. Nonetheless, do not make this a custom - as it can give the impression that you are not engaged or busy enough with your job.
If you are in a meeting, interview, conference call or any other situation in which you should be paying your full attention to somebody else, do not answer any phone calls. If it is absolutely necessary, excuse yourself first before stepping away. If you had been expecting an important phone call, make sure to clarify that at the beginning of the meeting.
3. Be mindful to the caller.
If you plan to answer a call in speaker while in a room full of people or when in the car, make sure you let the caller know in advance that they will be overheard by others in this conversation (avoid uncomfortable situations). Some people even mention who might be listening in on the call. This doesn't have to come across as a 'dodgy' attitude, instead as a courtesy and an invitation for others to participate in the call.
4. Speak at a conversational volume (and keep it brief).
If you cannot step out to a private area, when you take a phone call, try to speak at a conversational volume and keep it short. Don't scream so that everyone can hear you and don't whisper as to seem like you are sharing government secrets -- both are distracting to your neighbors. Let your caller know that you are at work and will need to speak at a different time.
5. Don't take your phone out during meetings.
Even if you are in a large auditorium or sitting in a conference room, it is pretty obvious when someone is looking at their phone screen and not present in the moment. In doing so, you are showing those you are meeting with that they are not worth your full attention and can even throw them off their game. We recommend to not set the phone in plain sight on the table, as incoming messages can lure you to see what is happening on screen. The ideal scenario would be to keep your phone in your pocket and if you absolutely need to check it, do so discreetly and periodically under the table.
6. Limit your texting and your posting of office content on social media.
Although you might have a great relationship with your team or you might be super excited to let your friends know about that new project you have been working on -- there are some thing you should leave off your public social media channels. Your bosses might not be ready for you to publish proprietary information and your coworkers might not feel all that comfortable with being featured online, therefore, it is always better to think twice and confirm if it is appropriate to post. Imagine you end up publishing content that risks the proprietary information of your company and in consequence your job. Likewise, consider what you would or wouldn't want your boss or coworkers to see in your social media. Be wary of posting anything derogatory or negative about work or your feelings towards a coworker to prevent a difficult situation.
Remember that what you put out there is - more often than not - what you receive. It is important to put our best self forward, specially at work, in order to ensure that we build positive and fruitful relationships both in our personal and professional lives. Making the conscious decision to prioritize this is worth the sacrifice of a couple of 'offline' hours and will most definitely improve your performance, lower your anxiety and make you more well-rounded in all aspects of your day to day life.