Rules for Using Cell Phones at Work

Etiquette Tips for Using Your Phone on the Job

Who doesn't love the convenience of a cell phone? Your family and friends can reach you at any time, for any reason, no matter where you are...even at work. While that accessibility may be a great way to stay in touch with your loved ones during the day, fixating on your phone will distract you from doing your job, and it may annoy your boss or coworkers. Assuming your employer doesn't have a rule forbidding cell phone use at work, here are some rules to follow:

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Put Your Phone Away

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Excessive cell phone use at work can interfere with productivity. Even if your employer doesn't ban their use, it's a good idea to limit yourself. Avoid temptation by keeping your phone in a desk drawer and checking it only occasionally to make sure you haven't missed any critical calls.

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Turn Off Your Ringer

Man using cell phone at desk
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Silence your ringer. If family members often have to get in touch during the workday, set your phone on vibrate and put it in your pocket. You will know when someone is calling or texting and can discretely take the call or answer a text privately. Your coworkers won't be bothered every time your phone rings or dings and, most importantly, your boss won't find out how many calls you get at work.

Alternatively, buy a smartwatch and have it alert you to incoming calls and messages. Some activity trackers can be set to work with cell phones too.

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Use Your Cell Phone for Important Calls Only

Close up of businessman holding cell phone.
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Should you chitchat with your friend, mom, or significant other while at work? Save those casual conversations for your drive home (hands-free, of course) or your break. There are very few calls that can't wait.

If the school nurse is calling to say your child is ill, it is okay to deal with that as soon as possible. Almost any boss would be understanding about answering a call when there is a family emergency. However, if your BFF wants to talk about weekend plans, do it from home.

Inform anyone who is likely to call about every little thing, that you won't be able to answer the phone. So if your dog has an accident on the rug, whoever is home with her can deal with it instead of letting you know immediately. When your cousin Tilly gets engaged, your mom can share the happy news after the workday is over.

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Let Voicemail Pick Up Your Calls

Businesswoman checks voice mail on mobile phone
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Instead of answering calls immediately, set up your phone to have them all go to voicemail. Check your messages regularly and respond to them based on their urgency.

It is important to note that this system is not ideal when someone is counting on you to respond to emergencies immediately, for example, if you are their primary caregiver. However, it is an effective way to deal with non-urgent calls that don't require your immediate attention.

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Find a Private Place to Make Cell Phone Calls

Businessman on sidewalk looking at smartphone
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Although making personal calls during a break is fine, find a private place to do it. Find a spot where others—those who are working or also on break—won't be disturbed. Make sure no one can overhear your conversation, especially if you are discussing personal things.

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Don't Bring Your Cell Phone Into the Restroom

Man talking on his cell phone in the workplace bathroom.

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Whether at work or anywhere else for that matter, this is an essential rule of cell phone etiquette. Why? Well, if you must ask—it is rude to both the person on the other end of the phone and anyone using the bathroom. Sounds travel and out of respect for your coworkers, allow them to maintain their privacy. As for the person with whom you are speaking, they don't need to feel like they are in the bathroom with you. 

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Don't Look at Your Phone During Meetings Unless...

settings Smiling businesswoman talking on cell phone outside conference room meeting
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In addition to using cell phones to talk or text, they have become an essential work tool. With that in mind, this rule should read "Don't Use Your Phone at Meetings Unless It is for Something Related to the Meeting" Use your apps as needed—for example, to add things to your calendar or take notes.

However, while you are sitting at a meeting, do not text, check your social media news feeds, post your status, or play games. Don't bury your nose in your phone. Keep your eyes up and stay engaged. Doing anything else will be a clear signal to your boss that your mind isn't completely on the business at hand.