Rules for Using Cell Phones at Work

Etiquette Tips for Using Your Mobile Device 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, your cell phone use at work can distract you from doing your job and it may annoy your boss or coworkers.

Many employers have formal policies that govern when or where workers may use their mobile phones. ​In some workplaces, they are off limits altogether. In others, while policies do not entirely forbid them, they are frowned upon. Become familiar with the policy at your job, whether formal or informal, before you even think of using your device on company time.

Even if your boss allows you to use a cell phone at work, you should use good judgment about how you do it. Be mindful of your coworkers and your boss, not to mention your own ability to get your job done. Here are some rules you should follow:

Turn Your Ringer Off

Man using cell phone at desk
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If you have your cell phone with you at work, don't let it ring out loud. If you don't want to turn it off completely, at least set it to vibrate. The sounds of different ring tones going off all the time can be very annoying to others. In addition, you don't want your boss to know how often you get calls, do you?

Use Your Cell Phone Only for Important Calls

Man in office using smartphone
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If you have your cell phone at work, only use it for important calls. What should you classify as an important call? The school nurse calling to say your child is ill, your child calling to say he's arrived home from school safely, and family emergencies that you must deal with immediately are important.

Your friend calling to chat, your child calling to say the dog had an accident on the rug, or your mom calling to tell you your cousin Tilly is engaged can all wait until you are done with work or on a break.

Let Your Cell Phone Calls Go to Voicemail

Businesswoman checks voice mail on mobile phone
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Unless you are certain an incoming call is important, let voicemail pick it up. It won't take long to check your messages, but if you answer the call, you may have trouble getting off the phone.

Find a Private Place to Make Cell Phone Calls

Businessman on sidewalk looking at smartphone
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While it's okay to use your cell phone at work for private calls during breaks, do it away from your desk. Find somewhere else to talk, where no one can overhear your conversation. Do this even if what you are discussing isn't personal. You may be on a break, but your coworkers are not.

Don't Bring Your Cell Phone Into the Restroom ... Ever

Men using cell phone in bathroom
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Please follow this rule regardless of whether you are using your phone at work or elsewhere. Why? Well, if you must ask—you never know who is in there; the person on the other end of the line will hear bathroom sounds, e.g., toilets flushing; it is an invasion of your coworkers' privacy.

Don't Bring Your Cell Phone to Meetings

Woman too focused on cell phone
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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 Bring Your Cell Phone to Meetings If You Are Going to Use It for Anything Not Related to the Meeting." You may have your calendar on your phone, and you may even use an app on it to take notes. If you need to have it with you for those reasons, then you don't have much of a choice.


However, 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 in the meeting. Doing anything else will be a clear signal to your boss that your mind isn't completely on the business at hand.