3 Etiquette Rules for Work Calls While Driving

Working from the road, including taking phone calls, may be inevitable. But there are some etiquette problems you should try to avoid.

Richie Frieman
6-minute read
Episode #396

When you’re carpooling and taking calls in the car, it’s only proper to share the talk time. Now, I’m not saying you need a sticker chart indicating who can talk and when. However, a mutual understanding of one’s time is key—regardless of who is driving. For example, Clint has a conference call at 9 a.m. that may go an hour. During this time, it’s proper for Will to not take a call too.  Understanding that you’re on a schedule-system, if someone has a major priority over they other, someone may have to be flexible with their plans. Yet emergencies come up that change your set calendar of car conference calls, so as I said, you have to be flexible.  If Clint is driving an on a call, and Will (in the passenger seat) has to take an urgent call, then Clint has to pull over, allowing Will to take the call outside. I recommend a parking lot but if need be, then it’s the shoulder of the highway. Hey, making time for business isn’t is always so easy, folks.

Tip #3: Use You Mute Button!

 I do not want to mistake John from accounting for Darth Vader. 

There are two things that bother me more than anything else on a conference call; heavy breathing and background noise. First, the breathing issue: Be it from allergies or just being a “heavy breather” (yes, it’s a thing), I do not want to mistake John from accounting for Darth Vader. If you’re a heavy breather, you don’t have to make out with the receiver to be heard. Step back, and count to ten backwards, in your head! OK, now the biggie—use the mute button when you're not talking. The mute button is the most powerful function on a cell phone to make you sound professional and “together.” If you have to sneeze, you mute the phone. Need to converse with colleagues in the room about the call going on? You mute the phone. And if you’re in the car while taking a conference call, you MUTE THE FLIPPIN’ PHONE! Sure the background noise may not be as distracting to you (the driver or passenger) but for others on the phone it sounds like you’re in a wind tunnel, holding a microphone over your head.

Now, even though I highly stress not touching your phone or using your hands to do anything other than driving, you can press the mute button.  Here’s how it works, first, as I said above, you have to announce that you’re driving. Something like, “Please excuse any background noise, but I’ll be on mute when I’m not talking.” Then—be it from the steering wheel or already mounted cell phone holder—you can easily press mute on and off. When you do this is shows several things about your professionalism. For one, that you value the call and their time and even though you’re out of pocket right now, you still don’t want to miss the call. Secondly, that you’re driven (no pun intended) to be available wherever, and whenever. As well, in the case of the background noise, you know that it’s distracting and what to limit anything that could sidetrack the focus of the conversation. All these things add up in the perception of folks on the other line.

In the end, I can’t stress enough how terrible it is to be distracted when driving. Not everything is an emergency. So if you are going to take call, only do so with a Bluetooth system, with both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.  

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

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