The line for coffee was four deep. The man in front of me, having nothing to do for the next minute pulls out his cell phone. Which is fine, we’ve all done it. What happened as he approached the counter is what was truly fascinating. As the line moved forward he continued on his phone, his legs automatically moving him forward. The person in front of him ordered and stepped away. This gentleman then took a step forward, as if to order, but just stood there. Engrossed in his phone activity for a full thirty seconds without even raising his head. I finally leaned around him to let him know that it was his turn to order.
We’ve all seen people steady talking while trying to checkout. Not paying attention to the cashier and what they are doing. So engrossed in their conversation that they couldn’t operate the credit card swipe machine. Experts have addressed the distractive nature of the use of cell phones and the lack of consideration given to others. Co-workers speaking loudly on their phones, playing games, on the internet; customers holding up lines. It has become an everyday occurrence.
Restaurants can refuse service. Some, in fact, have added cell phones to their “No shoes, no shirt-no service” signs. Others have embraced their connected customers. The owners feeling that they are lucky that the customer chose their establishment, why turn anyone away.
How is the office any different? There is very little that you cannot accomplish from your phone. If employees are not making or receiving personal calls, there is any number of distractive activities that one can do on their phone. Text messaging has made it even easier to have a “conversation” with someone. How much time do workers lose while texting? Maybe you don’t want to do the math.
Phone manufacturers are now advertising how their phones can increase productivity on the job. Making a case for the use of phones in the workplace. In June 2011, Qumu, a leading business video platform provider, conducted an online survey by Harris Interactive*. The survey found a majority of online Americans agree that companies should allow employees to use whatever mobile device they choose for work-related tasks. The survey also revealed that online Americans will take more risks with what they do on their mobile device. Some of the activities include:
52% - Look for another primary job
47% - Visit an online dating website
46% - Look for a side job
37% - Research embarrassing illness/condition
33% - Shop for lingerie/underwear
20% - Investigate plastic surgery options
Regarding use of mobile devices during meetings, the survey found that employees would use covert ways of peeking at their mobile device, while a lesser percentage will just look at the device in plain view. The favored methods of sneaking a look at a device during a meeting included:
47% - Hiding their mobile device under the table
42% - Excusing themselves to go to the restroom
35% - Hiding their mobile device in their folders/notebooks/papers
9% - Pretending to tie their shoes
8% - Creating a distraction
For the office environment there is a fine line of over supervising/regulating employees while at the same time maintaining productivity. In the rest of the world, cell phone users need to remember that they are not islands and walk amongst the rest of us.
Retreat into your phone if you must, just don’t hold up the line.
Greg Mazzella is the owner of Odenton-based Mazzella Investigative Services.