You’ve seen them before: people with their faces buried in their smartphones, completely oblivious to the world around them. We’ve become so addicted to connecting with others in virtual reality that we sometimes forget to participate in actual reality. If you’re like me, your phone sometimes gets between you and some of the things that matter in life—like your career.
Apparently we’re not alone. According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Internet Project, 20 percent of those surveyed said that Facebook was too distracting from other “real-life” concerns and eight percent admitted their Facebook usage was simply eating up too much of their time.
Smartphones and tablets are marvelous additions to society, enabling us to achieve whole new levels of connectivity with each other. Using them too much for personal purposes at work, though, can decrease our work performance and productivity. It also makes us look unprofessional to our managers and bosses.
Here are a few tips to help manage your smartphone use on the job:
Silence your phone
Do this by setting your instant messaging status to “busy” and turning off all notifications. Your phone can be a huge distraction if you need to focus on a project or attend a meeting. There are even apps available that can mute your friends’ Tweets without them even knowing. You can also temporarily block Internet access on your smartphone (which also works well when you don’t want your work life to interrupt your personal life).
Set a schedule for checking your smartphone
Perhaps you can check it once per hour or after you’ve completed a project or task. Too often, we mindlessly check our smartphones out of habit, and habits are difficult to change without setting limits.
Responding to personal communications or checking your social networks at work is one thing, but it’s quite another to flat-out waste time by gaming. Not only is gaming unprofessional—in some cases, it could even cost you your job.
Find out what the smartphone policy is at your workplace
Most companies have basic guidelines in place regarding personal electronic devices and social media use as well as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies. Many workplaces are tolerant of employees taking personal calls or checking personal email and social media accounts—within reason—but it is possible that such use may be limited to break times.
Go cold turkey
If you’ve tried everything above and you still can’t manage the distraction of your smartphone, just turn it off. Put it in a drawer. Don’t check it until lunch—or better yet, have lunch with work colleagues and leave your phone out of the picture. You need to get your smartphone addiction under control.
Of course, it works both ways. Using your smartphone for business networking can be an excellent way to boost your career. Sites like LinkedIn are the new norm for career development because of the ease of networking. And you can be sure that any recruiter or hiring manager will see a lack of an online presence as a red flag.
But face-to-face networking can also be effective, especially since we are so inundated with social media. If you combine virtual and face-to-face networking to expand your business network, you can work wonders for your career!
Don’t ditch your iPhone at work, but don’t be a slave to it either. When you’re building a career, use technology as a tool that works towards your goals—not the other way around.
Gretchen Cathey is the Operations Manager for Worth Ave. Group, a leading provider of insurance for iPhones. As a self-proclaimed social media junky, her flare for communication has brought her much success at Worth Ave. Group, where her responsibilities include social media outreach, public relations, advertising and brand and business development.