5 Steps for Better Smartphone Etiquette

Whether at work or home, these five tips will ensure your smartphone doesn’t get the best of you.

.Ninety-two percent of Americans believe smartphone addiction is real but most underestimate just how much they use their smartphone. Sixty percent of people think they touch their phone 100 times or less per day, however, a typical user taps, touches, or swipes their phone 2,617 times per day. 

In my opinion, smartphones offer more benefits than risks. GPS, camera, transportation (Uber and Bird), education (podcasts and audio books), note taking, and search are just a few of the benefits I don’t want to live without. But I also don’t want to live without giving my work and my family my full focus. Always available translates to being never fully available.

If the risks of smartphones remain unchecked, the devices can encroach on our relationships and productivity in the workplace and at home. The mishandling of smartphones can result in...

5 Steps for Better Smartphone Etiquette

1. Understand your usage

Getting control of your smartphone usage starts with understanding how you use it.

Enable features that provide data on how your using your smartphone. Apple’s new iOS 12 offers Screen Time which highlights most used apps, time on the device, pick-ups, and more. Google offers a similar feature called “Digital Wellbeing.”

2. Supervise your settings

Google's “Wind Down” feature sets your phone into Do Not Disturb mode where no notifications will show and the feature puts the entire screen (or designated apps) in grayscale mode which discourages use. With Apple’s new Do Not Disturb setting users can quiet notifications at set times or locations (such as your favorite lunch restaurant) and turn on auto-reply texts to inform contacts of your unreachability.

Addictive apps like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have also begun introducing similar features where users can track their usage, gain more control over notifications, and set daily usage limits. Email and other tools like Slack, can also be controlled to snooze at certain times to ensure users are fully available at the appropriate times.

3. Curb your checking

Resist the urge to check your phone every time it dings, pings, or rings. Ride the arc of the craving to check and consciously choose not to check. Every time you successfully beat the urge to check your phone, you strengthen your resolve of resisting your phone. Dishes aren’t washed every time a single plate is dirtied. Dishes are done in batches. In the same way, batch your responses to ensure you don’t lose focus. Manage the tech, don’t let tech manage you.

For the communications that are absolutely critical or urgent, identify a communication channel for emergencies only, such as calling.

4. Announce your activity

When someone checks their phone during a conversation, both parties are immediately and momentarily disconnected from the conversation. This can cause resentment on one side and mental (and sometimes emotional) detachment on the other side. Instead, announce your activity and narrate out loud why you're checking your phone during the conversation, such as “let me check my calendar to see if I’m available,” or “allow me to check my flight departure time.” Announcing your activity keeps both parties actively engaged in the conversation.

If you don’t have a good reason to narrate your phone activity then keep your phone away. This will also help to curb your checking.

5. Accentuate your alternatives

Emotion drives attention. This is why it’s so easy to slip into the mindless scrolling of social feeds, because it inserts us into the lives of those we care about. To make checking your phone less appealing, engage yourself through a better alternative. Find ways to attach emotion and meaning to the work and tasks you do everyday. (Read this for a few tips for engaging smartphone-distracted employees.)

Ryan Jenkins, CSP® (Certified Speaking Professional)™, is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker, virtual trainer, and author of Connectable: How Leaders Can Move Teams From Isolated to All-In. For a decade, he has helped organizations lessen worker loneliness, create inclusive cultures, and prepare for the future of work. He is also co-founder of LessLonely.com, the premier resource for addressing workplace loneliness. Follow his latest insights at @RyanAndSteven.

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