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For Business
November 28, 2013

Mobile manners: etiquette in the connected age

Whether it’s someone answering their phone while you’re having a conversation with them, or the person who needlessly ‘replies all’ on an email thread, most of us will have one or two things that drive us crazy when it comes to etiquette around mobile technology.

However, we’re probably all guilty of having occasional attacks of bad manners with the technology in our lives too, especially as it continues to hold increasing sway over all of our social and business interactions. Sometimes the flash of a notification or an email that’s marked as urgent can just seem to be more demanding than the people we’re face-to-face with ‘in real life’.

So if we all do it, why does it still bother us?

Do we just need to adjust our social expectations to be more in-line with this new era? Or perhaps it’s time to insist on better manners and draw up a new code of working etiquette for the mobile age?

Societal boundaries are being forced to rapidly evolve to accommodate advanced modes of communication in radical new ways. Always being connected means that distraction is never far away, and it just might be that our brains find the feedback of responding to a digital request more satisfying and rigidly defined than the complex world of human-interaction? If this is true, then it’s not that our devices are more demanding, it’s that using them is often simpler than talking to our colleagues.

There are cultural and sectorial differences for every workplace that will mean what constitutes acceptable behaviour differs. The Japanese mining industry will almost certainly exhibit very different attitudes to the Los Angeles fashion community, for example.

This all means that it can be hard to know exactly where the line is, even if you’ve been in your position for years. Changing levels of technological integration and more importantly, changing attitudes towards that technology mean that the borders are always shifting.

To help you achieve the ideal balance between productivity and good manners, we’d like to propose the following set of guidelines.

Six guidelines for good manners in the mobile era

  1. Try to respond ‘like for like’ with communication formats. Answer emails with emails, voicemail with phone-calls, and so forth.
  2. Don’t be an email blabbermouth. Keep it short, get to the point, and don’t click send unless it you’re sure it’s ready to be read.
  3. Give people your full attention. Carrying on two conversations at once means you will not be able to fully contribute to either. This applies to online conversations too.
  4. Prioritise people that are in the room with you over people who aren’t.
  5. Put your phone on silent when in a meeting, sharing a meal, or consciously switching off from work for the evening.
  6. If somebody doesn’t answer the phone, it’s because they can’t talk right now. They will see your missed call so don’t hound them!

If you have any guidelines of your own, we’d love to hear them in the comments. We’d also like to hear your stories about times about bad tech etiquette.

This article is part of Nokia’s Smarter Everyday programme, which aims to inspire you with the latest ideas on productivity, collaboration and technology adoption. To download our latest ebook Mobile Mastery visit

Image credit: Muffet