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Be smart with your smartphone at work

Etiquette - and safety - are primary issues for those using personal devices at the office
Smartphone (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Smartphone (Photo credit: Courtesy)

“Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door” – Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles

On your first day of work, before you scope out the bathroom and cafeteria, you need to find two private areas for phone calls. Don’t be the smartphone loudmouth at work. The first place can be in the building, but in an unused conference room – perfect for casual calls. The second one should be at the far end of your parking lot for the real private calls. Don’t be caught looking for a job at the entrance to your building and don’t let work friends listen to the ups and downs of your intimate relationships.

When your phone rings, make a strut for the inner private talking spot. If the conversation turns into more than a casual call, offer to call the other party back in two minutes and head for the exit. Don’t dial until you leave the building and give yourself some space between you and the closest person. If someone sees you and asks, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “It was a private call,” or “I cherish my privacy.”

Eventually, someone may ask to use your phone or tablet. Now you’ve got a dilemma on your hands. If you keep super-private data on your device – like banking and investments (cough, cough shady content!), prepare for this moment. If you can hide the goodies, let them use it, but stay close by. With all due respect, work friends that you know for 1-3 years at a time don’t get the privacy rank that personal friends that you know 10+ years get. We spend more time with work friends, but you don’t want to pass on your deepest secrets.

If you absolutely can’t let even God look at your smartphone, politely say, “I have personal information on my device. Let me dial for you.” If a work friend can’t respect that, it’s their problem.

One of your office perks is free wifi. Is it really a perk or a Trojan horse? It sounds great – you can use the office internet connection and save on your data plan usage. Not so simple.

You don’t know if your office is tracking internet use. They probably aren’t – your IT and HR departments have much better things to do with their time than to track your smartphone and tablet. But they can. It’s a risk not worth taking. The less your office knows about your personal life, the better. You don’t need to give them 1,000 cookies and the time and duration of your every break.

Be smart and don’t logon to the office wifi.

Most people work 8-10 hours a day. No one – not even the President or the Chief of Staff of the Army – works nonstop without taking breaks. Even military generals need a few minutes of downtime during the day. I assume they don’t get in a few rounds of Candy Crush or a few levels of their favorite role playing game, but we all need a few minutes of downtime during the workday.

When you start working at a new job, like a cat scouring the territory, you gradually place your mark in the kitchen and hangout areas; like James Bond hiding in a hotel stairwell, you watch and take note of the break habits of your co-workers. After studying the scene, you set out to conquer your break territory.

Take your time during your first few weeks at your new job. There’s no need to expose all of your bad habits during day one. Tread carefully. You don’t need to answer every phone call. Don’t login to Facebook, other social networks and email from work.

Most likely, you will discover that it is acceptable to take short breaks. The best break is the short walk after lunch. Otherwise, do a quick login to email, Facebook or get in a quick round of your favorite mobile game. Don’t dare start a role playing game that requires a 30 minute session to get anything done; level up at home.

Skip visiting shady websites at work. That means no porn and no piracy. Don’t dare download illegal content at work. If you insist on visiting The Pirate Bay, do it from home. Even if you download torrents on your personal data plan, you don’t want anyone to see you doing the dirty deed. Your professional image matters.

Don’t be the star of works breaks. Stay off the radar. When you lose focus, grab a cup of coffee or tea. Get a good night sleep and tomorrow will be better.

You start a new job and HR offers you a free smartphone. “Wow,” you think to yourself, “I just hit the jackpot! A free smartphone?! Am I in mobile heaven?” Slow down..

When they offer you a smartphone and a SIM card, just say no – to the SIM card. Why? Privacy. You don’t want any company to know where you are in real time (those cough-cough sick days) and the web sites you visit.

“They don’t care,” a colleague tells you. Probably not, but don’t take the risk. With THEIR SIM card in your phone, they CAN track you. It’s not your past that should concern you, it’s your present!

Why Wi-Fi?

When you connect your smartphone to the company Wi-Fi, they have access to your current data. Keep your smartphone and tablet away from the company Wi-Fi. Even when they give you that “he’s nuts” looks, keep your eye on the ball – privacy!

Most of us have mobile plans which include 1-3 GB of data. Unless you’re binge watching your favorite TV shows on your mobile device, it’s more than enough to allow you to avoid getting lost and even read CNN while at the dentist.

Truth is, we don’t have a lot of privacy these days. We leave our homes every day under the assumption that everything can be recorded. Do you want your company to know the things you post on social networks in real time?

Big enterprise probably isn’t going to search the metadata in your SIM card looking for clues about your evil past. But owning my own SIM card is the last stand of my privacy. Besides my DNA and original thoughts, it’s all I’ve got.

Own your own SIM card and be smart with your smartphone at work!

About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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