Cellphones in the workplace are driving us crazy
By Diana Wurn
Like a miniature terrier, sometimes it's the tiniest things that make the
Did the inventors of cellphone message alerts and ringtones really anticipate
that an entire generation of cubicle workers would be forced to endure shoddy
versions of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ludacris throughout the workday?
Maybe it was assumed that most workers would leave their personal phones turned
off at work, or that they would enjoy the lovely "Super Mario Brothers" theme on
But with more than 11 million new cellphone users estimated in the last
six-month reporting period alone, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association,
it's no surprise that all those personalized beeps, buzzes and electronic rings
have hit a critical mass. And that mass has made its way into the workplace.
Nearly a third of office workers cite cellphones as their No. 1 peeve, a survey
from Randstad USA found.
Mike Bishop, a 35-year-old distribution coordinator who works in a row of
cubicles at Trident Seafoods in Seattle, agrees. He says his company does not
have a policy on personal cellphones so he's taken matters into his own hands.
"People next to me have their phone set on high volume and it really makes me
want to go flush it down the toilet," he says. "In fact, I have threatened to do
His threats went unheeded, so Bishop found more creative solutions. When phones
go off on surrounding desks and co-workers are nowhere to be found, he simply
walks over and turns them off. If this fails or he can't find the off button, he
takes the battery out of the phone. A satisfying, though temporary, solution.
"All day long it's all sorts of different rings going off loudly," says Bishop,
who keeps his own phone turned off in his coat pocket. "Those ringtones are
especially bad. The guy next to me has a cuckoo-clock ring and it is highly
annoying." Midway through his rant, Bishop paused. "Wait, one is going off right
now! Can you hear it?"
"I hear a symphony ... "
The more people who sign on for a cellular lifestyle, the more alarms and beeps
we will hear. The Wireless Association says text-message use has jumped 71
percent from June 2005 to June 2006, and that in some households cellphones have
replaced landlines entirely.
As the population of cellphone users continues to grow, so does the blurring of
our personal and professional boundaries. We slip our phone into our pocket to
take with us wherever we go, from home, to work and even into the bathroom.
Peter Grant, a contract engineer, works in a cubicle in a section of his office
with about 50 other people. He says personal cellphones in the office are no big
deal. In fact, he likes them.
His phone has always rested on his desk during work, and the message-alert ring
is the theme from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."
"The co-workers like hearing it," says Grant, who adds that when his phone rings
he shuts it off immediately. "They say [it's] cute."