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Your cellular phone – friend or foe?


Who doesn’t love the convenience of a cell phone? Family and friends can reach you at any time, for any reason, no matter where you are, even at work. While it may be a great way to stay in touch with your loved ones, fixating on your phone can distract you from doing your duty, and it may certainly annoy your boss and co-workers.

As for me –  I am sick and tired of cell phones.  Let me rephrase; I am sick and tired of people’s bad manners and poor performance due to cell phones, stealing valuable time and concentration during working hours.

You may think that, since I may be much older than you, I don’t understand how cell phones are intertwined with everyday life?  Wrong.  The truth is, I am totally addicted to my phone.  It’s the first thing I do when I open my eyes in the morning (yes, first sign of addiction!) and the last thing I do before I go to sleep. From time to time my own cell phone might disrupt my sleeping pattern, but I will never allow it to influence my work performance or steal time from my own customers.

Then why the irritation?  I recently started paying extra attention to the time spent on cell phones in the workplace and it astonished me!  Let me give you a few examples:

  • At the airport – A security guard busy on his phone and allowing me to walk through the security boom while the alarm goes off. I know it was my Pandora bracelet, but he was so busy checking his phone and laughing that he just waved me by.
  • At a well-known coffee shop in Somerset Mall – I paid cash and received a R100 extra for change because the waiter is chatting on the phone. (I should have kept that money!)
  • In an optometric practice – A frontliner is busy with a customer on the landline, while texting on her phone at the same time. So, what’s wrong with multitasking you may ask?  Maybe the fact that she gave Mr. C. Smith’s account detail to another Mr. Smith’s wife?  When the real Mrs. Smith does an EFT for the incorrect amount, who is going to be the idiot?  Smith of course!  You will clearly remember how you gave her the correct account detail over the phone!
  • In another optometric practice – A patient sitting in front of a frame stylist who is busy with her quotation. The process is interrupted by a WhatsApp tone which is checked immediately – while the patient watches with irritation. 
  • Yet another practice – the frontliner doesn’t notice the patient that came into the practice as she is busy texting and her colleague is as oblivious as she is checking Facebook.
  • In the same practice – the optometrist is on his phone arranging a tennis game. The patient, already running late, tries to use body language to show irritation. 

The list is endless. I am also convinced that, by know, you have identified yourself in one of the scenarios. 

Please consider the following:

  • If you are guilty of one of the above, you are stealing time from your employer. Spending time on your phone during working hours is equal to lying on your time sheet. You did NOT work the eight hours that you are claiming for that day.
  • How can you complain that you have too much work to do, but you spend 20% of your working day (yes… 20%!) on your phone.
  • Where are your manners? Isn’t it common courtesy to put the phone away during working hours and to pay attention to your customers and colleagues?

Common excuses:

  • My kids’ school and my family need to contact me when they need to. Ever heard of a landline?  Why not give them the landline number and instruct them to only phone in case of emergency.  You were probably raised without a cell phone and that turned out okay?
  • I do not have a watch and I need to check the time. I have great news!  Just check the bottom right corner of your computer screen where the time is staring you in the face all day long.

I know that most people don’t intend to be rude on their smartphones. They just aren’t intentional about using these essential devices in a respectful, inoffensive way. Maybe you do not (yet) have a policy in place for cell phone use and is therefore uncertain as to where and when it is allowed. 

Cell phone and good manners can in fact be compatible. Assuming your employer doesn’t forbid you from using your cell phone at work, here are some rules you should follow:

  • Give 100% focus to the person in front of you. Ask yourself: “What impression am I making when my attention is diverted to my phone?”
  • Your cell phone should not be part of your table setting – keep it on silent and in a drawer. If you must use your phone in the practice and it’s not on silent, please ensure that you set a professional ring tone. “Warning! Warning! It’s your husband calling” is not appropriate in the workplace.
  • DO NOT read text messages under the table.
  • If you must take private calls, please do so in private. The practice is not the place to share personal or confidential information. You never know who might be in listening range. Bathrooms are not private places either – everyone can hear you!

A special message to all love birds: Tell your sweetheart how much you love him/her 70 x 7 times a day; once or twice when you wake up, again just before you start your work day, during your lunch time, after finishing your day at the practice and then as many times as you like thereafter.  Please do not let your love life intrude at work.

Frontline staff are the backbone of any practice.  We need you to be at your very best always.  Please help us make the industry proud.

Dear Practice Manager:  You are the one to blame.  Please ensure that you have a decent cell phone policy in place and start managing the process. 

A few signs indicating that you may have a problem:

  1. When you check your phone to see the current temperature instead of opening a window, and/or when you check your phone to see the current time instead of looking at the watch that’s right on your wrist.
  2. When you must consciously say to your spouse “Let’s put our phones away” during dinner.
  3. If you are answering emails in the reception area while waiting for your massage therapist to de-stress you, you may have a problem.
  4. When your husband / wife must text you the grocery list because you’ve lost the ability to remember any information not transmitted via your phone.
  5. When you hope you hit traffic or a bunch of red lights on the way home, so you can comment on a Facebook post.
  6. When one of your child’s first drawings of you projects you with a cell phone in your hand.
  7. When you wake up, you grab your phone and check it before anything else.
  8. When you drop a phone on your face or chest because you’re dozing off.
  9. When you are staring at photos you took on your phone, while the actual moment is taking place right in front of you.
  10. If you let your lunch get cold, so you could answer a query about cell phone addiction, you may have one!