Cell Phone Etiquette at Work

Even though a large majority of Americans use cell phones regularly, there is often a zero tolerance policy in the workplace, since they are often viewed as a distraction. Below, you’ll find four common uses of cell phones, and how you can either make these activities work-safe, or avoid them altogether.

Phone Calls

The first and most obvious use of cell phones is for phone calls. However, most workplaces don’t allow personal calls during the day, often going so far as to require phones to be shut off during shifts. The best way to avoid getting into trouble is to keep the phone turned off until a designated “free” time, such as a meal, a break, or after your shift is over.

Note: if you are expecting an emergency call, notify your supervisor and make sure they know your phone might be going off, and needs to be kept handy. If the call comes, excuse yourself and take the call in private.


The activity with the most controversy surrounding it seems to be texting. While the instantaneous sending of written messages is extremely useful, it does take an appreciable amount of time to write and send a message, which can detract from workplace productivity.

To avoid trouble, text only during specified break times. A good rule to follow is if it’s not so urgent that you need to call the person, a text can probably wait until break time.

Internet Surfing

If your cell phone has internet capabilities, it’s very tempting to use it to surf the web. However, this activity ranks as next to last on the list of things employers aren’t paying you to do with your cell phone. In fact, if you work in an area that uses computers, chances are your personal computer or an available one is already internet-connected. That’s not to say you have free access to surf at your leisure, but in conjunction with cell phones the act becomes even more of a problem.

You can surf the web on your own time. Breaks, meals and bathroom stops are perfect times to do what needs to be done online without violating workplace etiquette or the rules of company-owned computer usage.

Games, etc.

The last and most useless function of cell phones is as entertainment devices. With the advent of “apps”, one can literally do almost anything with a cell phone, from streaming music videos to playing games between mobile users. However, none of these things are acceptable in any workplace.

Even during break times or meal times, blocking out the people and activity around you can be detrimental to your workplace life. It isolates you from what’s happening with the company, as well as severely limiting the personal contact you might otherwise enjoy with your coworkers.