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Disconnecting to Connect in the Real World: The Dos and Don’ts of Smartphones

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Smartphones have taken a firm hold on our hearts and minds in the few short years they’ve been in existence. Now many people wonder how they could function without them – but they are unaware how poorly they’re functioning with them. Navigating the best practices of mobile phone use in the workplace often leads to some unpleasant discoveries, but it’s not too late to improve our habits. Use the Dos and Don’ts to get you and your team on track to a politer, more productive office. 

Do: Keep things in perspective. Remember that people worked – and worked well – without technology for decades. Decide with your colleagues when it is appropriate to be connected, and when it’s a good time to shut things down. Establish early on which alerts are priorities and which run-of-the-mill texts and phone calls should take a backseat. 

Don’t: Be connected 24/7 or ask your coworkers to do the same. Establishing a habit of round-the-clock connectivity and immediate responses increases stress and makes it harder to disconnect in the future. Practice common sense every day to encourage a healthy work-life balance and discourage anxiety and burnout. 

Do: Demonstrate respect for others. It should be commonplace in your office that no one uses their phone during meetings and that everyone makes in-person interaction a priority.

Don’t: Use technology as a crutch. When we feel awkward or shy, we instinctively use our phones to avoid interaction and this signals to others that we are unavailable; address this issue up front with your staff and ask them to instead practice an honest dialogue with colleagues. Putting the phone down demonstrates a willingness to converse with others.

Do: Put phones away. Have your colleagues silence their phones and leave them out of sight for the majority of the work day; they can check their phones sporadically rather than being constantly distracted. Unless there’s a real emergency on hand, your coworkers have more important things to do than to check their texts.

Don’t: Embarrass one employee in front of the group. If a person’s cellphone usage is out of line, schedule a private meeting with them to discuss the issue. Do not humiliate them by criticizing them in public.

Do: Lead by example and set clear expectations. If you expect the boardroom to be a cellphone-free zone, then leave your phone in your office and remind colleagues to do the same in the pre-meeting agenda.

Don’t: If there’s a real emergency on hand and you need to constantly check your phone, don’t keep it to yourself. Let those affected know that you’re suspending your smartphone etiquette just for the short term – and thank them for understanding.

Smartphones can seriously undermine our productivity and increase our stress. Establishing a firm mobile etiquette plan for your office can help to build better interpersonal relationships, decrease inefficiencies and promote a healthy work-life balance. They key is to promote open and honest communication and to lead by example. 

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Julie Nimmons

Julie Nimmons

Julie uses her 30 years’ experience to help CEOs, executives and business owners in her Vistage Group find success in their businesses and personal lives. With positive leadership, a firm sense of prioritization and the commitment to lifelong learning, Julie’s creates a constructive workspace for Group members where honesty, innovation and cooperation can flourish.