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Social Graces and Our ‘Always On’ Mobile World

Social Graces and Our ‘Always On’ Mobile World

Today, mobile devices have become such an extension of ourselves, that most people tend to feel lost and completely cut-off from the world if they leave their smartphone at home. The fear of missing out (FOMO in text speak) tops the list of anxieties for many smartphone users. This explains why people check their phone hundreds of times throughout the day and even sleep with their devices next to them. In fact, this “always on” reality has brought radical shifts in what is perceived as acceptable behavior in work environments where using mobile devices is becoming the norm.

In 2012, Forrester reported that 66 percent of employees used two or more devices at work, including desktop, laptop, smartphones, and tablets. A 2014 study found as many as 90 percent of workers use mobile devices to perform work-related tasks. Many companies have implemented a BYOD policy (bring your own device) for employees. The productivity benefits cannot be ignored, however, increased smartphone use has opened up all kinds of new and annoying ways to disrupt the workplace—most of which seems to stem from an apparent lack of common sense or manners.

Mobile Etiquette: Tech Misuse or Common Sense Issue?

According to a recent poll by Kessler International, senior and mid-level managers identified “untimely and inappropriate use of cellphones” as the top etiquette breach of their employees. It wasn’t that long ago that browsing the Internet for non-work related issues was the big problem, leading to IT department restrictions and strict “no social media” rules. Now, with BYOD policies and remote employees dominating the business space, people feel much more at ease surfing the web simply because they are using their own personal devices.

Many surveys and experts have also concluded that as technology is increasingly pushed to the forefront, common sense is taking a backseat. For instance, an article cited an Intel survey that found 92 percent of people in the U.S. want their co-workers to use their smartphones more discreetly. Some of the worst smartphone offenses were talking too loudly and discussing private matters in public.

Views on Mobile Etiquette Contradicts Behavior

In 2011 software firm, Harmon.ie polled London office workers to find a “classic case of double standards” rampant in workplaces concerning smartphones. Eighty-two percent of people complained about disruptions by their co-workers who answered their phones, tweeted, responded to emails, or updated their social statuses. Yet 70 percent of those who were guilty of interrupting meetings said they would be offended if someone did the same thing to them.

A new Pew Research Center survey revealed a similar finding. According to the report, 82 percent of adult Americans feel smartphone use negatively impacts their social interactions. However, 89 percent of mobile users were guilty of using their phones during their most recent social outing.

One reason why people end up neglecting their manners and common sense while using their phones could be as juvenile as peer pressure. People may have the perceived pressure to stay connected with their “always on” friends and colleagues.

The dos and don’ts of mobile etiquette at work boils down to common sense and common courtesy. Even if people are using their own devices, consideration for their environment and fellow co-workers need to be a top priority. So whether someone is working remotely or in a conference room during a meeting, it’s important to adhere to social etiquettes, including phone manners. Because despite a fast-paced, connected business world of being “always on,” there will always be rules of engagement.