Business phone headset etiquette rules for work image

Once upon a time, office workers walked around with cricks in their necks from cradling phone handsets between their heads and shoulders. Fortunately, phone technology has advanced since then. If you have a business phone like the MiVoice 6940w IP Phone, you can use a headset to save your neck and free your hands for other tasks, like note-taking. But with great power comes great responsibility.

The flexibility and convenience of wireless headsets for business phones created the opportunity for new workplace faux pas. And since these social foibles are usually more about courtesy than security risks or network availability, guidelines are rarely written down and the subject of official company conduct.

Nonetheless, basic headset etiquette is essential for a well-functioning workplace, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to put these basic rules down in ink (or, in this case, pixels). Feel free to pass them around your office—especially if you have any chronic offenders. Your coworkers will thank you.

1. Control Your Volume

We’re not talking about the volume on your phone. The buttons and dials for that are usually easy to find. We’re talking about the volume of your voice. If you’re in an open-plan workplace, noise is always a concern, and a loud voice can quickly become a distraction for dozens of coworkers. Plenty of people project with glorious voices that should be saved for the theater stage. Try to be self-aware and occasionally monitor your volume if you use your headset. If people can hear you on the other side of the room, it’s probably time to adjust. And if you can’t resist opening those pipes and speaking your mind at full volume, go somewhere isolated like a conference room. Some businesses with open-plan workplaces even have designated rooms for taking phone calls.

2. Don’t Eat While Using Your Headset

Headsets are very good at picking up noises from your mouth. They’re pointed directly at your mouth since that’s where your voice comes from. But that also means that headsets are great at picking up any other noise coming from your mouth. Chewing. Crunching. Smacking. Slurping. It doesn’t matter how quiet you think you are; if you’re eating or drinking while you’re on your phone headset, people will hear you. And when your coworkers hear you chewing on the phone, it feels like you’re right next to them, chewing in their ears. So, save the snacks for before or after your call. And if you positively must eat or drink during your call (which you probably don’t), make double sure you’re on mute. And that’s a great segue to rule #3.

3. Mute Yourself When You’re Not Speaking

Everyone’s been on a conference call with paper crinkling, loud typing, background noise from other offices, feedback from your microphone, and other bizarre and distracting sounds. If you’re not on a simple one-on-one call using your headset, set your phone to mute when you’re not contributing to the conversation. If you’re mostly listening, there’s no reason for you not to keep mute on most of the call. It’ll help you avoid sidetracking the conference call, distracting your coworkers, and potentially embarrassing yourself if coworkers try to strike up a conversation while you’re still on your headset.

4. Don't Have Side Conversations

Speaking of striking up a conversation while you’re on your headset, side conversations are another thing to avoid. This includes conversations initiated by you or initiated by others. If you’re not mute, your conversation will distract others on the call. Even if you’re on mute, you’ll miss what’s going on during the call. If you don’t need to hear what’s going on, you probably don’t need to be on the call in the first place. Try to save the conversation for another time. But if you must speak with someone during a call, use a silent method like a business chat tool or handwritten notes folded into paper airplanes.

5. Don’t Take Your Headset to the Bathroom

It should go without saying, but don’t take your headset to the bathroom for any reason. It’s discourteous. It’s unsanitary. And it’s just plain gross. It’s just as awkward for other people in the bathroom as it is for anyone on the other side. If you need to excuse yourself from a call, excuse yourself. But a bathroom is no place for a phone headset. Just say no.

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