Today's smart phones are both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they certainly have made business communications easier and faster. On the other hand, people have almost become lost in them. With instant access to email and the internet, we are losing ourselves to cyberspace and forgetting the world around us. When we lose touch, we become less productive, we lose our personal interaction skills and we end up offending the people around us. So how do we reap the benefits of our smart phones while keeping successful business relationships with co-workers and customers?
The answer is to know the proper use and etiquette of this new technology and to integrate it into your everyday business behavior.
There are three important aspects to using a smart phone in the work place that everyone needs to be aware of. First, with three generations in the work force - Boomer, Gen X & Y - not everyone views this technology the same. Each generation's skill level in the use all the applications of a smart phone can cause a disconnect between employees. Second, it's important to know how senior management views and uses technology and what your company guidelines are. If you're not sure, observe how they utilize their phone or ask your supervisor or HR manager. Third, if you're dealing with an international company, be sure to research how they view and use this technology and follow their customs when interacting with them.
Most importantly, remember that if you are looking at your smart phone, you are not listening to the person speaking or paying attention to your surroundings and you could miss something important or be perceived as not being interested.
Follow these simple rules when in a meeting or having a one-on-one conversation:
* Turn your smart phone off or on vibrate. Keep it off the table.
* Don't look at it during the meeting/conversation.
* Don't respond to a call, email or text during the meeting/conversation.
* If you are expecting an important call, let the person or meeting facilitator know in advance.
* Leave the room if you must take a call or respond to an email.
* Shut the door quietly when you exit and enter the room.
* Apologize if you do interrupt the meeting due to your device or while leaving the room/conversation.
* Use your email "out of office" assistant and change your voice message to let people know you're not available and will get back to them as soon as possible.
* Always respond to both email and voice messages within 24 hours or according to your company guidelines. If you can't respond fully within the appropriate time, send a short message, such as "I'm on the road, will get back to you Wednesday with your information." This lets the person know you received the message and that you will respond later. Don't let people wonder if their message has been received.
* Post a sign if you have a "No cell phone" area/zone.
Follow these rules when in public:
* Be aware of your surroundings. When using your smart phone, step over to the side and away from people coming from behind or towards you, such as stepping on/off an escalator or elevator, walking down a hall or street, or walking through a doorway. Most importantly don't text or read emails while driving. Too many people have been hurt or killed because someone was texting or using a device and lost awareness of their surroundings. Be safe for yourself and others.
* Keep the sound level low on your device - the phone ring, game pings and text message alerts. Keep your voice low. People around you are not interested in your conversation and a loud voice is just plain rude.
* Always keep your public conversations short and don't discuss company confidential information - you never know who is listening to your conversation!
* If someone approaches you while you're using a "hands free" device, let them know that you're on the phone with a smile and point to the ear piece. If doable, let them know you will get back to them as soon as possible.
Smart phones can give you a real advantage at work. They can show others how fast you respond, how well you provide accurate information, how well you write, and how well you handle issues through non-verbal communications. All this, if done properly, will build respect for your abilities and professionalism. Make smart phone etiquette part of your everyday behavior and reap the rewards. But remember, the smart phone is only one tool in building business relationships.