Since its foundation in July 2002, National Cell Phone Courtesy Month has been encouraging respectful behavior surrounding the use of cellular devices. This makes July the perfect opportunity to reflect on your personal and professional cell phone habits that may impact the perception that others have of you. Not only can cell phone usage in its various forms (text, email, calls, social media) decrease productivity if not used appropriately, but inappropriate cell phone usage can also give you the reputation of being rude, distracted, inattentive, or even antisocial.

The following are reminders of how you can use your cell phone to stay connected without sacrificing your profession reputation.


  1. Focus on the road: Although illegal in many states, it is not unusual for people to take business calls or try to respond to work emails and texts while driving to and from the office. Unless you take public transportation or carpool, your commute is not the time to utilize the many functions that your cell phone offers. While your coworker may be hoping to alert you of a situation before you get to the office, it is more important to be courteous of your fellow commuters who are also trying to make it into work safely. Pull over if you need to use your phone immediately, or wait until you are at work to begin work related communications. In addition to the safety of your fellow commuters, consider how well you are actually able to communicate on your cell phone while driving. Give the person on the other end of the phone the courtesy of your full attention, and arrive at your destination safely and ready to work.


  1. Out of sight: Have you ever heard the phrase, “out of sight, out of mind”? This phrase directly applies to cell phone etiquette in the office. Whether you are in a meeting or participating in a conversation with coworkers, your focus should be on the person in front of you and your cell phone should remain out of sight. To clarify, out of sight doesn’t mean trying to hide your texting underneath the conference room table, or stowing your cell phone in your pocket where it can easily become a distraction. Out of sight means avoiding temptation and distraction by designating a place at your desk for your phone that will keep it out of sight (and hopefully out of mind) when you are working.


  1. Silence is golden: When it comes to cell phone usage at work, silence is golden. Unless you are in an industry that relies on smart phones for communication throughout the day, your phone should remain on silent. Even hearing a phone vibrate can distract your coworkers, and as cool as your new ringtone is, no one is going to be thrilled hearing “Stairway to Heaven” in the middle of a meeting. Just remember that with the exception of emergent situations, your phone should remain on silent throughout the work day.


  1. Adjust your volume: How many times have you overheard one side of a cell phone conversation due to a lack of personal volume control? Talking loudly on your cell phone is both unnecessary and inconsiderate to those around you. To avoid becoming known as “that person” at work who likes to talk loud enough for everyone to hear their side of the conversation, adjust your personal volume so that you are speaking conversationally and confidentially with the person who is on the other end of the conversation.


  1. Stay put: Although cell phones allow you the ability to walk around while talking on your phone, it is important that your phone usage doesn’t distract others from their work. If you know that you are a walker and a talker, be aware of how your phone conversation follows you as you walk from your desk to the break room and impacts the people you pass by. Be courteous to your coworkers and keep your phone conversations limited to an area of the office that is meant for phone conversations such as your office or an empty conference room.


  1. Be social: In addition to providing us with a means to communicate quickly from virtually anywhere, cell phones have also become a social buffer. Rather than talking to others in the break room, it’s not uncommon to see coworkers completely avoiding eye contact with one another and focusing on the tiny screen of their phone instead. Similarly, I have witnessed individuals waiting to meet a client or coworker who are too occupied with their cell phones to notice that their guest has arrived. We have become a society who looks down at their phones far too often, but the solution is simple: be social and look up. Your coworkers will appreciate more eye contact and small talk, and often times these simple gestures can increase a feeling of comradery in the office which will not only help with productivity but will also make work a more enjoyable place to be.


Although these reminders will go a long way in helping you to protect your professional reputation, it is important to remember that there are exceptions. For example, you may be expecting an important call but need to rush into a meeting. In this case, it is necessary to have your phone readily available but you can still be courteous to others by alerting them that you may need to step out to take a call at some point during the meeting. If you do indeed receive an important call during a meeting or a conversation with a coworker, excuse yourself by giving a polite (and brief) explanation such as, “I apologize, I need to take this call”. The most important aspect is making sure that cell phone usage is the exception, not the rule while you are striving to maintain a positive professional reputation.