The Articulate Dentist - A Blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society

Mythbusting: Cell Phones in the Workplace

Practice Management

By: Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, MADAA

It’s OK to carry my cell phone in my pocket while I’m at work. I mean, if my family needs me, I have to answer.



You do not need your cell phone on you at all times. Your family should have your office phone number to reach you in case of a true family emergency. If you are in the middle of any procedure, there is no way you should be answering your phone.

When you think about it, what text message did you receive yesterday that was a true emergency? More than likely, it was your partner asking what was for dinner, one of your kids asking if they could go to a friend’s house, or the kids arguing and wanting your attention.

Cell phones gained popularity in 2000 with the advent of text messaging. So, most of us did not have cell phones 20 years ago, and you know what? We survived!

I believe these tiny computers—that we insist on not only having but on keeping in our hands at all times to answer the next text or phone call in a flash—have become a source of alienation for humanity. I think we’ve become a society of rude people. Have you ever been talking to someone who receives a text, then immediately looks at his or her phone and texts back? And here you thought you were in the middle of a conversation with the person!

Let’s explore another aspect of the cell phone craze. Back in the day, we had these amazing little rooms to hide out in, called darkrooms. They were so nice—we could keep our snacks in there and nobody bothered us because we simple yelled, “Don’t open that door!” Thinking we were developing x-rays, no one opened the door! It was a safe haven in the middle of a hectic
day. Then technology stole our little piece of paradise. Now, the only place we can hide out is the bathroom!

We grab our phones or have them in our pockets, and we head into the bathroom for some private time. We catch up on our texts, emails, take a selfie, and when we’re done with our business, we set down our phone and wash our hands. We’re the masters of hand hygiene. I mean, after all, we all know how to properly use hand asepsis. So, we scrub up good and then pick
up our phone!

Some eye-opening statistics
Did you know that when you flush a toilet, the water sprays six feet? Did you also know that many public toilets, including many in dental offices, do not have lids on them? So, where do you set your phone to wash your hands? I’m sure it was well within the six-foot range.

Then what did you do with that phone? You touched it with your hands and put it next to your face! Did you know that cell phones have become a leading cause of adult acne? Did you also know that a study conducted at a university in the UK found that one in six cell phones are covered with feces? Now look around the room and ask, who has poop on their phone? Is it you?

Cell phones carry at least 18 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. I can never find anyone willing to put their face next to a toilet seat, yet we will put our cell phones up to our faces all day long! Do you take your phone home and let your children or grandchildren play on it? If they’re like my eight-year-old grandson, they certainly know how to work a cell phone. So, what are we passing on to them?

The main reason you should not carry your phone on you at work and use it during the day is that you simply are not getting paid to be on it. You are getting paid to do your job. How much attention can you devote to your job if you’re always glued to your phone? Is your boss always having to track you down because you’re off using your phone?

One of my favorite quotes is from Jim Rohn, who said, “You don’t get paid by the hour, you are paid for the value you bring to the hour.” What value are you bringing to the hour if you’re always on your phone? Put yourself in your boss’s shoes—you hire a painter to paint your living room, and every time you look over at him, he’s on his phone. At the end of the day he tells you, “Gosh, this is taking longer than I thought. I’ll be back tomorrow to finish, but it’s going to cost a little more money than I expected.” I bet you’re thinking, “Dude, every time I looked at you, you were on your phone.” You feel like you’ve paid him to
be on his phone instead of painting. Get the picture?

When a dental assistant asked me for advice about how to approach her doctor-employer for a raise, I simply said, “Put down your phone!” Truly, if your family needs you, they should have your office number, they should not call your cell. Anything else can wait until you get off of work. Stand out for not being the employee glued to your phone. Your boss may never say a word, but he or she knows, and that will show at raise time. Also, you will create animosity among your coworkers if you’re always on your phone while they’re working.

Put down the phone, do your job, and give it your full attention. Your family and friends can wait, just like in the old days!

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, MADAA, is the office manager and chairside assistant to Dr. Eric Hurtte of O’Fallon, Missouri. She is a member of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master and sits on three national counsels. She is also the Illinois Dental Assistants Association vice president. She is the founder of the Dental Assistants Study Club of St. Louis and St. Louis Dental Office Managers Study Club. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, with five locations in the US. Tija is also the author of six CE study courses. She is a national speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states.


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