Texting at Work: Slacker Habit or Super Efficient?


The other day I was at a business luncheon and the woman across from me was texting like a fiend. Her thumbs were a blur. I was grateful. Her bad behavior made me feel better about my own. Because who hasn’t checked an email under a table, pretending others can’t see?

After a few minutes this woman, a reporter, turned to me and asked about something the speaker had just said that she’d missed. She made a point of mentioning that people are always giving her the hairy eyeball because they assume she’s just checking Facebook or picking out a happy hour, when she’s actually taking story notes.

So apparently she’s not just a savvy business woman, but also a little psychic.

What do you think when you see someone tapping away? Do you figure it’s important business, or just frivolous socializing? And now that we can use our phones to do so many things (like check facts or take story notes) what’s the etiquette for using them in business situations?

Image Credit: Ada Harverd, Flickr

  • My 10 cents for what it’s worth….
    I think that over time it will become completely acceptable – I think we are in a transition today. I worked in the corporate office for 20 years for 1 of the world’s largest companies… I think a big part of the ettiquette today is determined by the audience in the meeting and the environment of the company. Personally I type much more efficient notes on my laptop than I will ever be able to write and can do so w/out missing anything in the meeting – the clicking of laptop keys sometimes still bothers people in the meeting. I think the ettiquette will ultimately be to the point that it is acceptable to take notes on a phone, laptop, blackberry or record the meeting / your phone – today we aren’t there yet. A great deal of it is being cognizant of those around you, the general acceptable practices in the company or organization and adapting. I always go to meetings prepared to write or type depending on the setting once I arrive. Sounds like she might still be in that stage of expecting everyone to conform to her approach even though her approach became a distraction.

  • In my experience, most people assume that you’re texting or on facebook, as I do the same thing–write all of my notes on my phone. It’s gotten to the point that I will usually let the presenter know that I’ll be taking notes on my phone so they don’t get upset (where applicable).

  • I think that’s a wise decision – letting the speaker know. We’re still in transition.

  • Craig S.

    This issue just came up at work. Some of the older folks are saying that it is a distrcation when someone is TEXTING away while someone is presenting. I for one take notes on my PDA, while others may be responding to important emails during parts of meeting that don’t involve them. The attitude is that people are being rude and otherwise wasting time (tetris, facebook etc). The proposed policy is to ban phones/Blackberry’s from meeting and you must keep them at your desk. This is apparently from someone who does not use one and can’t see their usefulness.

    How do you bridge the generation gap when 20 somethings are using technology to their advantage and 50 somethings don’t know anything about it. As a just turned 40 something I am in the middle and trying to translate.