Tech Etiquette at Work: What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

Etiquette differs based on who you talk to, and in the technological age, social media and smartphones have produced interesting effects on interaction. People are close and distant at the same time.

Combine convenience with the perceived intimacy of someone being a tap away, and courtesy becomes the last thing on your mind during a busy day. While you frown at a lack of common courtesy in others, chances are you’ve had your moments of being inconsiderate toward others, too.

Consider asking yourself: Are you that person? Are you the one who answers a phone call or text in the middle of a conversation? Are you too absorbed in your technology and ignoring the world around you? Here’s the rule of thumb on what’s acceptable and what’s not.

1. Text Facts and Save The Phone for Conversations

Think of texting as a transmission of facts. That’s why you have emojis, but those get misinterpreted, too. Texting is great for reminders or a brief notice that you’ll be 10 minutes late due to traffic. Many people think of texting as more casual than phone calls. So, in a more formal interaction, it’s always best to extend the courtesy of a phone call whenever possible. Stick to texts for transmitting quick information, but for more subjective discussions, make a phone call.

2. Using Your Mobile Phone at Work

Ever notice how your voice raises when you’re on a mobile phone? You’re used to being in “go” mode with a sometimes spotty connection. When you must answer a call on your mobile phone, keep the conversation brief, and arrange to call back at a different time or on a landline for better clarity. Walk to an area where you won’t disturb co-workers and clients. If you have an emergency situation, communicate to your boss that you may have to take important calls regarding a loved one’s health. Discuss the best guidelines for this need in advance.

Another option involves proposing the use of a business cell phone to increase productivity and better balance between your work and home lives. Employees don’t need to feel chained to their desks and can keep in touch with the office wherever they are. But while at home, the phone can be turned off during family and sleep time.

3. Minimize Social Media

Some jobs require the use of social media to promote a company brand, and you may not think there’s anything wrong with popping on your profile for five minutes. But, is it ever really just five minutes? Minimize personal social media use, and keep it personal by always checking your accounts on a device that belongs to you during your lunch period and breaks. Most companies have strict online security and track all movements on the web—yes, that includes your keystrokes. Be careful what you log into and what you post.

4. Internet Surfing at Downtime

Some positions have much downtime. In these cases, your boss may not mind you surfing the web or reading a book. In some ways, it helps keep your mind engaged, but there’s a major risk of getting and staying distracted on the job. Remember that you’re getting paid for time to serve particular duties, and you must stay alert and be productive. Leave internet surfing for fun during break time or when you’re at home. While your boss may not mind a little surfing now and again, when he or she gets stressed, your downtime habit may become a topic of frustration. Read short articles or TED talks during your breaks instead. If told it’s OK to surf the net during downtime, keep your searches related to aspects of your job. Prioritize your presence at work first.

5. Charging Devices

Are you a plug hoarder? When working in a shared space, you have limited access to plugs to charge your devices. Don’t unplug someone else’s device to charge yours only to create a needless socket war. Save your juice by placing your phone on airplane mode and reducing the number of apps you use. Invest in a portable battery pack in case your device needs a boost with no plug in sight. Don’t walk away from your device, and keep it out of sight. Think of it as constantly having your cell phone out on the dinner table—people look at you and your phone as if you’d rather be elsewhere. Some work areas also have limited voltage that they can handle. So, if you’re running your computer, a space
heater and charging your device—look out!

6. Instant Messaging With Co-Workers

Many co-workers prefer the convenience of sending a quick message to each other than walking across a large office building. Reveal your fun side in doses, and keep messages professional and brief. Don’t abuse any professional mode of communication. Your important messages may get sent to spam or ignored if you’re guilty of misuse. When you receive a message, reply concisely and quickly. It’s OK to remind others you’re facing a deadline and will catch them at break.

7. Using Your Laptop During Meetings

Follow the agenda closely, and only use your laptop for the meeting. Don’t do other work or check your social media account. Check your email at another time. If you need a breather and a meeting is semi-flexible, ask if anyone needs coffee.

8. Printer Etiquette

You go to print something, and someone left a paper jam or didn’t replace the toner. Sometimes, you’re the guilty one. If you don’t know how to address a printer issue, contact the appropriate person or ask around. If you have a large print job, move to a printer considered as low priority use by co-workers. Employees tend to focus on one conveniently located printer, especially when in a rush to head to a meeting or send out paperwork. Give co-workers a warning in advance if you need to use a high-priority printer for a big job.

9. Use Work Email for Professional Matters

Don’t use your work email to stay in touch with others outside of the office. Workers spend an average of 4.1 hours daily checking their email, and most of that is time wasted. Use an email subject line to detail the matter and its priority level. Make an appointment to meet if a situation requires more of a subjective conversation or human touch.

Tech etiquette gets tricky to navigate when you rely on the convenience and intimacy of having connection at your fingertips. However, the timing or execution of that connectivity isn’t always appropriate, especially at work. Put these tips to work for your tech etiquette, and communicate with your supervisor when you feel at a loss. You’ll feel more present and more productive at work and maintain a better work-life balance.

Image | Bloguettes | Sarah Landrum is the Founder + Editor of Punched Clocks, a career advice blog for Millennials that the I Want Her Job team loves!