Jun 07 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Office gadgets such as mobile phones, laptop computers and PDAs are both a blessing and a curse, according to new research, a situation made worse by the insensitivity of those using them.

Research by the University of Surrey has found that while email and mobile phones are seen as essential for staying in touch with colleagues and clients, the growing cacophony of beeps and rings is seriously trying the patience of many in the workplace.

The survey of 600 workers across the UK found that more than half of us think that it is inappropriate to use any form of IT equipment in a meeting or when talking to another person at work.

Only one in ten thought it was acceptable for a mobile phone to be switched on during a meeting, while more than eight out of ten felt it was inappropriate to look at or send text messages when with others.

Responding to a call when speaking to somebody implied that the phone call is more important than the person, while answering a call during a meeting suggested the meeting is not important.

Some six out of ten of respondents said there were informal workplace rules for the use of IT equipment, while four out of ten said the use of mobile phones was not allowed.

However the research also found that younger people were less likely to be offended by others answering mobile phone calls during meetings.

"I’m afraid the research survey shows that we all want to have our cake and eat it,” said Surrey’s Professor Michael Warren

"We become stressed and impatient when we can't reach someone, yet we resent distractions and can become angry when our own meetings are interrupted by a mobile phone.

"The survey shows a clear need to establish workplace rules and for management to take a lead.”