Smartphones - It seems that you can’t live with them and can’t live without them either. As contradictory as that Smartphonestatement is, not to mention a cliché being used for things since time immemorial, it still is very true. These pieces of technological innovations are not only helping us keep in touch (ironically the only purpose they were initially thought to fulfil), but also keeping us informed and entertained. The App Stores are full of different purpose apps that all of us very fondly use. It’s a good thing, isn’t it? They are making our life so much easier. So what’s the problem then?

The problem lies not in what these smartphones can do, but in how smart are we to use a smartphone? Are we relying a little too much on these machines? People with strong opinions will be found on either side, however, the fact is we need to use the smartphone to make our life easier, not to replace the life we lead with a virtual one (Matrix anyone?).

Social norms and phones

In the societies we have grown up in we have adapted to some unspoken set of rules. However, smartphones have increasingly become an integral part of our lives only in the recent past. What this means is that we are still evolving in how we use smartphones.

It’s not uncommon to find someone who would shut you off from time to time when they receive a phone call or a text. Is this normal? Think of it as when you are talking to someone, and in the middle of the conversation that person is tapped on the shoulder and starts talking to someone else. Will you feel humiliated?

Smartphones have been an acknowledged nuisance in meetings, so much so that many companies ask their employees to turn off their phones before the start of a meeting.

However, that only seems to be a solution adapted by companies that have a strong work ethic and office culture. Many others take it for granted. The Internet is full of reports and accounts of people who have had their manager or supervisor attend to their phones in the middle of a conversation. Which highlights something very grim – are managers setting a bad precedence for their employees? Now, again some people would jump up and come to a conclusion. Though it’s true that with managerial responsibilities it may be necessary to stay connected; however, it leaves a bad impression on employees, who are made to feel less important.

What are the implications?

  • If you are an employee and your phone rings in the middle of a conversation with your boss, you might be considered as rude and disrespectful.
  • If you are a manager and you are in a meeting with your employee and you attend to your phone, they might feel let down.
  • When you attend to your smartphone in the middle of any conversation, it can break your rhythm. You can lose the flow of the talk. I once attended a seminar with one very prominent speaker who kept attending to his phone and kept talking about the same thing, explaining it over and over again for over an hour.
  • You get easily distracted and you can’t concentrate on either one of the things and are prone to making mistakes you would rather avoid.

What can you do?

It’s not a new problem and it certainly doesn’t mean giving up on your smartphone privileges. I have read a few articles on the Internet where writers and even HR managers advise you to not bring out your phone in the workplace.

It does seem like a good option, but can you really negate the use of phone in workplace? I would leave that to you to answer. However, I will bring out another approach used in many other countries - The concept of a work-phone. It’s not really innovative in the sense that before the rise of mobiles, people used to have two phone connections – at home and in office. Both were kept separate and for emergencies, your closed ones had numbers to both.

MNCs are having tie-ups with mobile service providers to provide their employees with discounted phone connections (often paid for by the employers), or in cases SIM cards which the employees can use in their own phones at work. These SIM cards work in conjunction with work email, and only your colleagues at work have access to this number. Employees like using dual SIM phones for the same purpose, where they can turn off the personal SIM at work and vice versa.

As useful as smartphones are, they are still frowned upon at work. Even if you may not agree with the above solutions to the problem, the least you could do is ask for permission from the person in front of you before you take that call. It doesn’t hurt to be courteous, does it?

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