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Tech etiquette outlaws: are you one of them?

By Workplace Staff

The use of gadgets such as smartphones and other handheld devices may make employees more productive, but they haven’t made the workplace more polite, a new survey suggests. More than four in 10 (42 per cent) chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed have seen increased instances of poor workplace etiquette resulting from more frequent use of mobile electronic devices.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. It was based on telephone interviews with more than 270 CIOs from companies across Canada with 100 or more employees.

CIOs were asked, “In your opinion, what effect has the increased use of mobile electronic gadgets – such as cell phones, smartphones, handheld devices and laptops – had on workplace etiquette in the past three years? Have the number of breaches in workplace etiquette increased, decreased or remained the same?” Their responses:

Increased significantly:   18%

Increased somewhat:      24%

Remained the same:       49%

Decreased somewhat:      4%

Decreased significantly:    2%

Don’t know/no answer:      3%

“Electronic gadgets have facilitated increased productivity amongst employees, but they may also cause interruptions in the workplace,” says Megan Slabinski, president of Robert Half Technology’s Canadian operations. “Although tech etiquette protocols vary by business, it’s a sound decision to offer your undivided attention whenever collaborating with colleagues.”

Slabinski adds that it’s easy to inadvertently offend people when you’re moving too quickly. “With all of the tech options, the most savvy communicators will consider the best tool for the message.”

Robert Half Technology identifies five types of tech-etiquette offenders, and offers tips for making sure you’re not one of them:

1. The Misguided Multitasker. This person thinks that e-mailing or texting during a meeting or conversation demonstrates efficiency. But others may regard it as a sign he prizes his BlackBerry more than the company he keeps. Unless you want to create potential animosity at work, use your handheld device only in an urgent situation and step out of the room to reply.

2. The E-mail Addict. If you’ve ever played e-mail tag with a colleague, you’ve likely encountered this person. She relies on a constant stream of e-mails, instant messages or texts to communicate all of her needs, often thinking it will save time. But excessive messaging, particularly regarding trivial things, can be inefficient and disruptive. Often a phone call or in-person discussion can resolve issues more quickly.

3. The Broadcaster. This person has no shame when it comes to using his cell phone anytime, anywhere – Including open office halls and the public restroom – to discuss anything. When using your cell phone in common areas, it’s not only disrespectful but also potentially off-putting to others. Keep private conversations limited to private places.

4. The Cyborg. Rare is the chance you see this person without the blinking glow of a Bluetooth headset or iPod earbud nestled in her ear. Keeping a wireless earpiece or headphones constantly plugged in signals to others who may need to speak to you that your attention is not available. Show that you are accessible to your colleagues by using earpieces in the office with discretion and consideration for those around you.

5. The Distractor. This person may have good intentions in setting his phone to vibrate rather than torturing colleagues with a cheesy ringtone, but hearing it repeatedly buzz loudly on a desktop or during a meeting can be just as distracting. A better solution: Set your phone to silent or keep it in your pocket.

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