Does your company have a policy (written or unwritten) about using personal electronics in the office? Many don't, but should, have one in place.
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It seems like the "no personal calls" rule was much more in effect before cell phones took over how we communicate. Many people can't wean themselves away from their phones and use them as their only mode of communication, so having a strict "no phones" policy could be difficult to enforce.
Drawbacks of Cell Phone Use
For the younger generation, it might not be apparent that using a cell phone at work could bother others, so it's good to be aware of how cell phone usage affects those around you.
It can be distracting when someone is on the phone, and while we're all used to overhearing work calls, hearing a coworker mumble sweet nothings to his girlfriend while you're trying to complete a report can be unbearable.
Having your cell phone readily available also takes away from your own efficiency. Studies show that it takes you eight minutes to recover from every interruption you have at work. So if your mother texts you five times in an hour, it could take you 40 minutes (plus text time) to get back on track. Most employers aren't willing to pay for those wasted minutes.
Phones and tablets are also showing up in meetings. It's easy enough to pretend you're taking notes, but many use the technology to drown out the sound of the meeting coordinator. The meeting time is wasted when workers aren't paying attention.
And then there's tech envy. Do your coworkers spend more time envying your technology than getting their work done?
Is Your Smartphone Causing Envy?
It used to be that we stood around cooing at coworkers' baby photos. Now we coo over their latest and greatest phone or tablet.
Not everyone has a smartphone, but it seems like everyone clamors for one. According to a Captivate Office Pulse survey, 30 percent of people are very envious of technology that their coworkers have in hand. And rather than wanting their coworker to keep their tech acquisitions quiet, 35 percent of people would like to hear and see more. While flaunting a shiny new toy may be welcomed by some, it can cause feelings of ill-will, not to mention time wasted, while coworkers play with your new gadget.
[See How to Choose a Smartphone.]
Tips for Workplace Technology
Even if cell phones and tablets have transformed the way we communicate and consume information, office efficiency can co-exist.
Use the vibrate function on your phone. Nobody in the office wants to hear your custom ringtone multiple times a day.
Be courteous in meetings. If you are texting or tapping away, then you're not paying attention. If you genuinely want to use a tablet to take notes, ask the group if they mind.
Watch the volume. Listening to your colleague's loud conversation about his after-work plans shouldn't be part of your daily interaction.
Realize that your phone and tablet are meant to make you more productive, not less. But unless they're contributing to the work you do in the office, reserve using them until you're out of the office or on break.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.