The days of leaving your phone in the car while you’re at work are long gone. But, there are still some steps you should take to be sure you’re managing your usage professionally during the workday.
If you’re like most people, you probably hate to be away from your phone for literally any length of time. (A recent study found that 41 percent of millennials would rather give up shampooing for a week than relinquish their phones for the same time period.) Thankfully, there are some ways to manage your smartphone use at work so that you don’t send the wrong messages, diminish your productivity or damage your career.
1. Know that you’re probably underestimating
Research has shown that folks tend to underestimate how much time they spend on their devices. For example, a study conducted by psychologists at Lancaster University found that people between the ages of 18-33 checked their phones, on average, 85 times per day. Although they only looked at their phones for less than 30 seconds on about half of those occasions, the participants still spent an average of roughly five hours per day on their phones. Researchers also found that folks tended to underestimate their smartphone usage by about half.
Even if you think you’re more in touch with your own smartphone usage than the folks in this study, chances are you probably check your phone at work more often than you think. Simply knowing this is a crucial first step toward better understanding, and managing, your usage at work.
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2. Monitor to build self-awareness
It’s essential to have a realistic understanding of how much you’re actually on your phone while you’re at work. Apple recently released a new screen time feature for IOS 12. Checking your screen time report, by way of a handy bar graph, shows how many hours and minutes you spend on your phone doing different kinds of tasks. Other apps, like Moment, do the same thing.
Additionally, as you go through your workday, try to notice when you check your phone rather than doing it mindlessly. Identifying your habits and patterns can help you decide whether or not they’re really serving you. Do you tend to check your phone after sending an email, or in the bathroom, or during meetings, or in an elevator? What do these times all have in common? When, and why, do you tend to reach for your phone when you’re at work? And, when is it really serving you to do so?
3. Don’t interrupt a meeting
There are still some reliable hard and fast rules when it comes to using your smartphone at work. Depending on your company’s culture, it may not be totally unreasonable to bring your phone with you to meetings. The practice, along with many social norms involving smartphone use, is increasingly common. However, what is unacceptable is allowing your phone use to disturb a meeting, especially by way of a noisy, long, ringtone. There is absolutely no good reason not to switch your phone to vibrate during a meeting. So, make doing so a part of your regular meeting prep routine.
4. Handle conversations professionally
Another important rule of thumb to consider, especially if you’re a part of cube world, is that loud, long, personal conversations are not appropriate to have during the workday. If something is going on at home that demands your immediate attention, step away and take the call somewhere private.
Similarly, when you are having a conversation face-to-face with someone at work, don’t look away to check your phone while they’re talking. Stay present and engaged in the conversation at hand and keep your phone in your pocket.
5. Set the example and help change the norms
Smartphones are a powerful tool of modern life. But, you have to remember that you’re the one in charge, not the other way around. Your phone is something that you use to help you in your life. Your actions shouldn’t be driven by it. So, try remember to use your phone rather than letting it use you. You don’t need to jump every time a text or email comes through. You are in charge and you can attend to your smartphone when it’s convenient for you. Don’t let your phone run the show, that’s your job.
Additionally, you’ll be setting a good example for others to follow, and you could impress some of the higher-ups too, when you manage your smartphone use at work in a professional way. You’ll also be helping to change the norms around the office. Chances are you have a few coworkers who could be a little more aware of their own smartphone habits. It might be rewarding to help to steer things in the right direction through your example.
Tell Us What You Think
What else do you do to manage your phone responsibly at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.