Admit it: You've probably developed at least a few bad habits when it comes to how you use technology. Perhaps you've taken a call in the middle of a meeting or caught a disapproving glance from friends when your phone is the first thing to hit the table at a lunch date. And let's not even get started about people on flights.

We're all living and working in a world of shifting norms, especially when it comes to how we use our ubiquitous technology in the workplace. Increasingly, part of the recipe for success is keeping up with evolving digital manners while also integrating the power of technology into your communications and networking strategies and let's be honest: just about everything else, too.

Management, marketing and trends expert and author Scott Steinberg recently released a new edition of his book "Netiquette Essentials," an etiquette guide for our social, mobile and hyper-connected reality. I asked him to sum up his advice for fixing some of the most prevalent bad tech habits, for those brave enough to admit to them.

Yes, it can wait: Steinberg says always having your phone on and at the ready doesn't have to be your default mode. If it's inappropriate or discouraged to have your device out for a certain activity, or if you honestly don't need it, go ahead and switch it off and soak in the prehistoric (also known as the 20th century) experience of being disconnected.

"If you must check your phone, tablet or mobile device regularly, decide on regular intervals at which this task will be performed (say, every half hour or hour) as opposed to obsessively checking the device every ten seconds."

He adds that experts recommend at least one device-free day a month and turning them all off an hour before bed to get better rest.

The meeting is not on your phone: If it is not made abundantly clear by your supervisors, it's best to assume devices should be off during meetings, presentations, conferences, corporate retreats, and other professional functions. But certainly there must be exceptions, you say. Well yes, but make sure that the exceptions don't become a habit and therefore no longer exceptions.

"If you cannot avoid having to take a call or text for business purposes while you are in the middle of engaging with others, politely excuse yourself from the meeting or discussion," Steinberg advises. "If you cannot do so, and must text or utilize high-tech devices in their presence, turn away from the device when others address you, and maintain ongoing attention and eye contact during conversations."

The world does not need to hear your business call: Can't avoid taking that important call in public? Keeping them short, sweet and quiet or confined to a noisier area where such chatter is appropriate is the way to go, Steinberg says. To be a little more clear, he has a list of places that are probably not okay:

"Phones should not be used in enclosed spaces such as stores, subway cars, gyms, restaurants, airplanes, and autos where conversations may intrude upon or annoy others. If you need to make a business call, politely excuse yourself and step outside to do so, or wait until you're in a less private or intrusive setting."

In addition to being considerate to others, also remember to be careful disclosing private information that could be overheard while taking a call in public. Your company's intellectual property people will thank you.

Social really is social, not just something you check in private: "Social networks may seem like informal settings, but they should be treated with the same respect as any public place of business." Steinberg says. "Professionalism is imperative - if you wouldn't say it in a social or work setting, don't say it online, in the most public of forums."

Another pro tip: maintain a positive tone and attitude online, also remembering that some conversational nuances can be lost in translation in social posts.

"Consider how posts will be read and interpreted before sending. Note to outspoken entrepreneurs: Sharing extremely-opinionated viewpoints (e.g. political leanings or thoughts on controversial topics) can be a lightning rod online. Think twice before liking supporting status updates or posting such opinions, which can incite and aggravate others (and live on in perpetuity)."

Don't regret hitting 'send': Speaking of getting lost in translation, email is fertile ground for this phenomenon as tone, context and subtle nuance often don't get attached to the note in the way we intend.

"Before sending, consider if your commentary could be misconstrued and/or misinterpreted, and if a simple phone call might be better advised," Steinberg suggests. "Be careful (and be careful to double-check recipients) when copying and blind carbon copying as well: A slip of the keyboard, finger or auto-completing contact form may inadvertently send messages to the wrong party, or result in dozens of parties' contact information accidentally being shared with one another."

He says to take the same care when marking emails 'urgent' or hitting 'reply all.'

If this all seems like common sense, great: your online manners are up to snuff. If not, it might be time to start replacing those bad habits with new ones to help ensure all your technology works for you and not against you.

Published on: Feb 27, 2017
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