Donald Trump’s White House has banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. Even if you’re allowed to use yours at work, follow these rules.
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The Trump White House issued a new ruling banning the use of personal cellular devices in the West Wing earlier this week, citing security concerns. It prohibits both staff and guests from using their personal devices, though “staff will be able to conduct business on their government-issued devices,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement.
The move has staffers concerned about how they’ll maintain contact with their families, worrying that those government-issued phones, which are said to be off-limits for sending personal text messages, will impede their ability to communicate with loved ones during busy days, according to a Bloomberg report.
The White House isn’t the only employer to ban personal cell phones while at work — and many are doing it for reasons other than security issues. Indeed, research finds that personal mobile phone usage while in the workplace runs rampant in America, hindering productivity. In a 2016 CareerBuilder survey of employers, cell phone usage and texting was cited as the No. 1 productivity killer at work, with 55% of employers agreeing that it hurts productivity.
What’s more, a survey by staffing firm OfficeTeam in 2017 found that professionals admitted wasting an average of 56 minutes every day — roughly five hours out of a standard work week — “using their mobile device for non-work activities in the office.” Younger employees between the ages of 18 and 34 spent even more time distracted by their phones — an average of 70 minutes per day.
Whether or not you spend an hour or more on your personal cell phone at work, it’s important to be careful about its usage as it can reflect badly on you. The first rule of thumb: “Like anything in life… be aware of your surroundings, be aware of the situation, and don’t let distractions like your phone or texting get in the way [of your work product],” says career coach Susan Ginsberg O’Sullivan.
Here are some other rules around personal cell phone use at work.
- Don’t use your cell phone in front of your manager during private or group meetings, unless you’ve first disclosed that you’re expecting a pressing phone call you can’t miss — such as news about a sick child or loved one, for instance, says O’Sullivan.
- If you do have to take that call — like a call from your child’s school or a doctor — you may need to notify colleagues, says etiquette expert Elaine Swann. “If you’re not just there as a fly on the wall but you’re not there as part of the conversation, part of the agenda, go ahead and slip out,” without making a statement at the start of the meeting to excuse yourself when that call comes, she says. “But if not, and your opinion matters and you are part of the discussion itself, it’s a good idea to let your team members know in advance.”
- Even if you’re just in the company of coworkers with whom you share a friendship, Swann says you should be “very, very careful,” about taking out your phone. Even if your company has lax cell phone policies, chatting or twiddling your thumbs on Words with Friends is not advisable.
- Keep conversations brief. “There are some instances where a very brief, 40-second call to confirm something, or a quick text message, is not going to impede your workday,” Swann concedes. “But if you have to have a prolonged conversation, you should take that conversation during the time that the company allows,” or go to a quiet conference room or corner where you won’t disturb your coworkers.
- Resist the urge to immediately reply to friends or family who repeatedly call or text you during the day, and try to use your phone for personal issues only during designated break times, O’Sullivan says. You can train others to respect your workday boundaries by avoiding taking their calls whenever they expect you to answer, or switching your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode.
- Most of all, both O’Sullivan and Swann agree that you should always be courteous — particularly to your boss — if someone is in front of you and expecting your attention; don’t distract yourself with your device. As Swann concludes: “Whoever is in front of you — they have the top priority.”
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