Not too long ago, pulling out your smartphone during a meeting was considered rude. Of course, at some times it still is but that is changing. Phones now serve a greater role as business tools. Using them for the right reasons makes a lot of sense.

Standard Mobile Phone Etiquette at Work

The first thing to review is your company’s policies/rules on cell phone usage. Depending on where you work, the rules will vary. For most service based jobs, cell phones need to be put away and are not to be used. It does still look like you’re goofing off when you pull out your phone in front of a customer because it doesn’t look like you’re paying much attention to them.

The problem is, most businesses don’t do enough training about how to treat customers. When there’s an awkward silence or pause, most people’s instinct now is to pull out their phone and see what’s going on there since there’s some time to do that. Instead, more businesses should train their employees on how to connect with customers better to help remove awkward silences. It’s so easy to follow a script and not everyone is naturally outgoing, so this kind of training is needed.

Here are some tips on how to better connect with customers when there’s a pause or awkward silence:

  • Talk about the weather. This is pretty standard and you don’t want to stay on this topic too long but it’s something everyone has in common, so it’s an easy “warm-up” subject to use.
  • Ask people where they’re from. It’s always interesting to know where people live or where they’ve been.
  • See if they have plans for the weekend if it’s a Thursday or Friday.
  • If they’re wearing something interesting, give them a compliment on it or ask where they got it. If they’re wearing a college name or sports team name, you can talk about sports.

Use topics like this as a springboard or starter questions to find out more and then take the conversation from there. Stay away from politics and religion since you usually can’t assume which viewpoint they have and those topics and be a bit touchy or controversial.

Next, after you know the mobile phone rules at your company, if you can use your phone for certain reasons, here are some tips to follow:

  • Mention that you’re going to use your phone and what you’re using it for. Something like, “let me check on that quickly” as you grab your phone is fine.
  • Don’t look at it too long and stay in the conversation that’s going on. This may take some practice and strong will power to achieve but keep working at it.
  • If you can’t find what you need, then say you’ll get back to them on it so that you don’t spend too much time on that device.

Using Email With Your Mobile Phone

Being able to connect to your company email account is very convenient but there are some things to keep in mind.

First, make sure you understand how it works. Will viewing a message on your phone mark it as read and will you see it on your desktop/laptop computer or not? Know how this works so you don’t lose important messages.

Second, if your boss is all in favor of you not working on weekends (if they understand the value or downtime or you have that luxury), then turn off notifications on the weekends. If you’re not able to set that automatically, then set reminders for yourself to turn it off on Fridays and turn it on every Monday.

Third, keep personal and business emails separate so that you don’t accidentally mix them up and to stay on task at work. If your company provides you with a phone, keep your business email there and keep your personal email on your personal phone. And yes, there are cell phones with dual SIM cards, which let you have two phone numbers with one phone. There are even dual SIM adapters for iPhones (Google it).

Basic Cell Phone Etiquette at Work

Using a phone during a meeting

If you don’t have special rules where you can use your phone at work then leave it in your car and check it at lunch or on breaks or turn it off at work.

If you can use it minimally, then remember the basic work phone etiquette rules that are pretty standard:

  • Silence your ringer
  • Keep your phone out of sight so that it’s not a distraction
  • Take any personal calls out in the hallway or away from everyone else
  • Don’t talk loudly on your phone unless you can get outside
  • Don’t text too often – know that personal things can often wait
  • Don’t use your speakerphone or listen to voicemails
  • Put phones away during business lunches (not on the table)
  • Have a professional sounding ring tone (no ah-oo-ga sounds or rap songs)
  • Don’t take calls in the restroom
  • Don’t play games while at work – that’s company time
  • If you must take a personal call, politely excuse yourself

Of course, don’t ever take a phone call from someone else while you’re in a conversation with someone in front of you unless it’s an emergency. Interrupting the conversation to take a call is seen as rude because you’re turning away the person in front of you for the person that’s not even there. Let it go to voice mail (that is what it’s for) and contact the other person later. You want to give 100% of your focus to the person standing in front of you.

Make sure your business has official/approved means of communication. There’s nothing worse than having the pressure of checking many, many places for corporate communication. It can waste a lot of time.

Consider turning off your phone for 1-2 hours a day in order to get more work done.

Ways to Use Your Cell Phone as a Tool at Work

There are ways to make yourself more efficient at work if your phone is considered a tool for your job. Doing this can save you lots of time and free you up to do real work.

  • Check the weather
  • Use maps or make travel plans, track flights
  • Mark your parking spot
  • Call for a cab/Uber/Lyft
  • Check and send email
  • Use your calendar
  • View contacts
  • Track mileage
  • Take photos for projects
  • Take voice memos or record meetings (with permission)
  • Look for restaurants
  • Read business related books
  • Listen to business related podcasts or books
  • Get on a data network when visiting a client
  • Browse the news
  • Check stock quotes
  • Set up alerts and alarms
  • As a calculator
  • Set up reminders
  • Sign a contract
  • Set up a to-do list
  • Post to social media (if that’s your job at your company)
  • Work while traveling
  • Take notes during a meeting
  • Do research

As you can see, cell phones can be a very productive tool for your job. If your boss or management hasn’t yet seen the light concerning this, send them a list of the ways phones can be used as business tools. Doing that might help them change their minds on corporate policies and become more efficient.

Corporate Security Concerns

From the corporate perspective, smartphones can also be used for malicious purposes. They can be used to hack networks, copy/steal files, take photos, use too much bandwidth, and so on. These devices on the corporate network can be used to scan traffic or plant viruses (knowingly or unknowingly). Phones at work but on a different network is a network the company does not control, which is on their property and that’s a concern as well.

They need to protect their assets and this is something to keep in mind when you find out your company isn’t too mobile phone-friendly. They have good reasons. For them to add the necessary protection against these kinds of threats costs them resources (time and money), which can actually come out of your paycheck – either in a direct or indirect way.


Just be smart and use common sense. Know that using a phone at work is still a privilege. If you are able to use a phone at work, then use it as a tool for your job to become more efficient. If you can’t then know that non-work stuff can wait and know that your company isn’t spending extra money on protecting their network, which can come out of your paycheck.

Hopefully this article has provided more insight on cell phone usage at work. If we missed anything, please add your comments below – we welcome that!


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