Mobile phone etiquette for people on the move

The mobile phone has become an indispensable part of our working life, but it has made us less mindful of others within earshot. Here’s some tips to use your mobile more effectively.
“We need an etiquette tailored for business people who communicate on the move. The increase in mobile phone usage for work and private calls or text messaging is becoming a source of irritation and psychological stress within, and outside, the workplace,” says Dr Pieter E. Streicher, managing director at, a global mobile messaging company headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa.

Etiquette for a Mobile World

How do you feel when someone answers a call during a meeting? Or your co-worker makes a personal call in the adjoining cubicle? Or your business partner sends and receives several text messages while you are out for lunch together?

Are you guilty of the same lack of etiquette? What steps are you willing to take to minimise the decibels associated with mobile calls and receiving text messages?

“Responsible mobile use is the key to better social relations. We need to look carefully at our current use of mobile phones and find ways of being more considerate of others at work as well as at home, the coffee shop, the movies, theatre, on the golf course, or at the beach,” says Dr Streicher.

Dr Streicher suggests that we use text messaging intended for business communications more effectively and recommends the ten ways of fostering an acceptable mobile phone etiquette (or “metiquette”).

Mobile Phone Etiquette Tips

  1. Use text messaging to reduce the social intrusion of a call. When a mobile call is replaced by a text message it is less intrusive as it gives the recipient an opportunity to reply or call back when convenient. Mobile phones should be viewed differently from fixed line phones. Unlike fixed line phone calls, mobile calls are often received in situations requiring our focused attention such as driving a car, during meetings, or at social gatherings. The public use of the mobile phone intrudes into the social space of anybody within earshot, making a private communication a public spectacle.
  2. Enable the “Silent” setting on your mobile phone in public places or open offices spaces. This will allow you to minimise the noise your ringtone or message alert makes in areas where several people may be disturbed by a ringing or beeping mobile phone.  
  3. Use text messaging like a pager. This is an unobtrusive way to get hold of a person as there is no immediate compulsion to reply to the message. If a mobile is turned off, the text will be delivered shortly after it is switched on. When fixed line calls are not answered it is assumed that no one is home. It is therefore acceptable to continue calling a fixed line number until someone answers. In contrast, a mobile phone is usually carried on your person. When a mobile call is not answered it may not be an opportune time to speak. It may be viewed as unnecessary harassment if calls are made continuously to a mobile phone.
  4. Use text messaging as a notepad. Request callers to text the required details after the call. A pen and notepad are common items near fixed line phones for writing down instructions and phone numbers. In contrast, it is often difficult to take notes during a mobile conversation, especially when driving a car (with a hands-free kit) or when listening to multiple voice messages.
  5. Change your voicemail greetings to include: “Don’t leave a message, rather text me”.
  6. Instead of leaving a voicemail message send a text. This removes the need to write down details while listening to messages. Furthermore, scrolling through text messages is much quicker than listening to many voicemail messages.
  7. Use text messages to send regular updates on a business process directly to a customer’s mobile phone. Businesses are finding that customers appreciate receiving regular updates in any extended business process; such as the repairing of a car, the delivery of items ordered online, or when new a cheque book is available for collection.
  8. Avoid the inappropriate use of text messaging. Consumers do not appreciate unwanted marketing messages. Unwanted messages are seen as spam. There are regulations prescribing opt-in and opt-out procedures via text. Businesses contravening these codes of conduct for commercial messages can be heavily fined by the regulatory authority.
  9. Ensure that there is an opt-out mechanism for consumers when sending out marketing messages via text. A text messaging channel ensures that a consumer does not have to make unnecessary phone calls to networks or wireless application service providers to remove themselves from a database. To opt-out from unwanted commercial text messages, a consumer should be able to reply with the word “Stop”. Visit the Mobile Data Association and 160Characters Association for more details on text messaging regulations in the UK.
  10. Use a desktop messaging solution, such as the BulkSMS Text Messenger, that supports the sending and receiving of personalised individual and bulk messages. This allows you to customise your communications and track conversations with your consumers, clients or suppliers and promotes efficient internal and external business communications. Businesses should heed the changing social norms of mobile phone use. In certain situations, customer, client or supplier preference to receive text messages rather than voice calls necessitates the implementation of a text messaging solution across all departments of a business.   
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