my job is pushing me to get a smartphone and I don’t want one

A reader writes:

I currently have an older cell phone (not a smart phone) for personal use. I have texting and voicemail. Although I am under 30, I am comfortable with this decision and I have never had the need for a smart phone. I enjoy this phone because it’s durable (I’ve had it for 6 years), cheap (it costs me $30 a month to have) and convenient (I only need to charge it once weekly or biweekly). It makes calls, receives them, and works as an alarm clock, and that’s really all I need. I do have my phone on me at all times like the next person, but I don’t hear it ring when I am out walking my dog or at the store. However, I do return calls promptly after I see I’ve missed them (again, just like the next person).

A few months ago, I was promoted and moved to another department. Recently, after a vacation I took, my manager brought me into her office to mention her belief that I need a smartphone. She said her and other employees are aware that I have an outdated phone and said it is necessary that I have a smartphone so I can be available to check emails at all times and be reachable. She asked if I had thought about getting one. I said no.

She asked if it was a cost issue, which I said that it was (although it is also the belief that I don’t really need one, since mine works fine and is durable and reliable). I didn’t specify, but in my head I thought how my phone costs $30/month and a data plan/new phone plan can cost around $100/month, and would also require a case for durability and possibly other phone accessories. She said there is another manager in the office who has an old iPhone available for me to have, and would only require the new plan hookup. She said she’d talk to corporate about getting the phone plan paid for, but she said it would probably be difficult, since I am still fairly entry-level and “if we get yours paid for, other employees will wish for theirs to be paid for as well.” My previous position dealt in finance, so I know that other higher-ups have par of their phone bills paid for ($75, or about half of their monthly bill), but none of my same-level coworkers have theirs paid for.

I don’t believe I need a smartphone. I have internet at home and a cell phone with text and voicemail. Worst-case scenario, an employee can contact me to let me know an important email chain from a client needs to be responded to. Nothing came up on my recent vacation that I am aware of, but she still mentioned it, which makes me believe that they wanted to contact me then, but couldn’t.

I also am concerned (as I’ve read in a previous post on your site) that having this work phone would make them think I am available 24/7, even on weekends. I am rarely contacted outside of work hours, but I am concerned that my coworkers and manager will believe I am now constantly available. On weekends or on vacation, I would love to be able to leave this phone behind or off, but I guess that would defeat the purpose of them providing it to me.

My concern is that she will come back to say “corporate won’t let us pay for it.” I don’t think it will come to this, as I’ve been recently been promoted and (hopefully) am in good graces, but I would hate for them to fire me over my refusal to increase my cell bill by $70/month to get a smart phone. My medical bills recently increased and I am not making very much, so this would definitely impact my budget.

I work in the media industry where there are tight deadlines and occasional weekend work. I am not in the level that directly contacts clients, so the concern of meeting their needs is filtered through my managers, then to me. Since I occasionally work weekends or very late nights (had a 70-hour work week last month), I enjoy having weekend time to myself and vacation time when I request it (always far in advance). What are your thoughts?

I think there are two issues here: whether you really need a smartphone to do your job and whether you need to check email outside of regular work hours.

There are some roles that do truly require checking email on evenings and weekends, and many of them are in your industry so it’s possible that it’s the case here … although most of those roles don’t require a smartphone to do it; you can check email just as well from a computer. The only roles that truly should require a smartphone are ones where you need to check email so often outside of work hours that it needs to travel with you to restaurants, movies, and other outings. Otherwise, a computer suffices.

Given that distinction, I wonder if this is less about what device you’re using and more about “we feel like you’re more disconnected than everyone else” … which may or may not be rooted in a legitimate work need.

In talking to your manager, I’d get clarity around that distinction. Is she really saying you need a smartphone, or is she saying you need to check email more in your off hours? And if she’s saying the latter, then you can explore how necessary that really is.

I’d say something like this: “I’ve actually been really deliberate in not having a smartphone. Part of the reason is the cost — increasing my cell bill by $70/month isn’t trivial — but part is also philosophical. I think you know I’m highly responsive and available outside of regular hours when I need to be, but it’s important to me to me to have space on evenings and weekends when I can disconnect. I am absolutely willing to be called or texted in case of an emergency, but even with a smartphone, I’d likely turn email off on weekends because I believing in taking time to recharge. So I don’t think changing my phone is the answer; it sounds like what I need to get more clarity on is how often you want me to be checking email during off hours — whether it’s from a phone or from a computer.”

You’re likely to get one of two responses: Your boss might tell you that you do need to be checking email more often during off hours, in which case that’s the issue to explore here, not what technology you use to do it. Or you might get a vaguer answer — if your boss doesn’t actually think you need to check email X times per weekend but just has a hazy feeling of discomfort that you’re not more connected.

The vaguer answer is harder to deal with. At that point, it’s a judgment call about how much your boss is really going to push it, what kind of rapport you have with her, and whether your relationship will allow you to push back.

But if it’s a more concrete response that, yes, this job does require checking email round the clock, then you basically have three options:

1. Push back about why and see if one of you changes your mind. To push back, you might try pointing out that you’ve only been needed outside of work hours once in the last X weeks (or whatever stat makes sense there).

2. Present other ways to achieving whatever her objective is in that, like asking if people can call or text you if something is urgent. (The latter is only reasonable if urgent things come up infrequently; it wouldn’t be reasonable to request if you were, say, a communications director for a high-profile company that regularly fields after-hours media requests.)

3. Or, if she won’t budge, then what she’s telling you is that this particular job (at least at this particular company) does require this kind of availability. If that’s the case, you might need to decide if it’s a job you want, under those conditions.

But I don’t think any of this is really about smartphones. It’s about how plugged in you are, by any means.

{ 349 comments… read them below }

  1. Lily in NYC*

    If they want employees to check email at random hours, then they should provide blackberries. My smartphone is about as useful to me as a brick- I hate it and it’s a huge waste of money considering I barely use it.

    1. Scott M*

      I agree. Lots of people at my office have personal smart phones, but very few of them have them set up to check work email. If they are required to be available, they are provided company Blackberry phones. Their office phone rolls over to the blackberry, and it is linked to their company email.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        And they can save money by only giving employees access to email on them. Very few people here have phone capabilites on their bberries.

      2. John*

        Companies are increasingly dumping the BlackBerrys are instead having employees load email apps on their smartphones.

        1. Windchime*

          This is what my company did. I loaded the email app on my phone, but then got a notice that I would have to change my phone plan (more $$$) in order to have the email app work on my phone. No thanks. My phone is for my personal use. My co-workers and I call/text each other and I check email from my laptop when something is going on. I know people who have work email on their personal phones and they are compelled to check it every few minutes. I would hate being that connected.

    2. Joey*

      No. This is like saying if you expect me to travel between worksites you need to provide me a company car. Or if you expect me to wear suits you need to buy them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think there’s increasingly an argument to be made that in some industries having a smartphone is starting to be seen similarly to, say, having internet in your house — something you need to do the job but which your employer isn’t going to pay for.

        Whether that’s right or wrong is debatable, but I do think that’s happening.

        1. Mike C.*

          It’s an incredibly unreasonable expectation. Internet connectivity is used for way, way more than just “work” that it should be considered a utility like electricity and water, and not really a good comparison to having to buy an additional smart phone.

          1. LBK*

            But suits and other business attire aren’t necessities outside of work for most people. What’s your argument for the company not paying for those? They definitely would not be expenses I incurred otherwise if it weren’t for my job (like a smartphone bill might be).

            1. Mike C.*

              I’m stuck on the suits thing, though I would point out that uniforms are generally tax deductible. (Are suits as well?)

              At the same time, there are a ton of work things I don’t pay for – my desk, my laptop/docking station, my monitors, my chair, my blackberry, mileage, airfare/accommodations when on travel and so on. Telling me that I need to either buy a whole new phone when it’s customary to have corporate accounts or share my phone with all the remote wiping and data sharing risk that entails is simply nuts.

              I can’t mark the exact line where a company should pay and where they shouldn’t. I expect basic office supplies to be paid for, but certainly pay for my own fountain pen ink. But a work phone used for the sole purpose of work feels like it should be paid for work, much like my laptop or my desk. It’s a cost of doing business, and it shouldn’t be placed on the employee.

              1. AP*

                I’ve heard of suits being tax deductible if you can make the argument that you ONLY use THAT suit for work. I had an adviser in college that worked in the Journalism field that would store his work-related suits in a separate closet, send them to a separate tailor and dry cleaner, and deduct them from his taxes because he was required to wear a particular style of suit on-air. The broadcasting company didn’t pay for them, but he was able to use them as tax deductions.

                1. De Minimis*

                  I imagine there are exceptions [this may be one] but generally if attire has any possible use outside of work it’s not deductible.

                2. Stephanie*

                  Yeah, I didn’t realize news anchors had to pay for their own clothing (at least at the local level), so I could see that being tax-deductible (or the station providing an allowance). My regular ol’ interview suit I could wear elsewhere (like a funeral).

                3. ExceptionToTheRule*

                  Local stations generally don’t provide allowances any more. One of our anchors recently told me that their CPA won’t let them deduct clothing or gym expenses because those things are “normal” costs of living and are also audit flags.

                4. LBK*

                  That’s not legal. From the IRS website:

                  <You can deduct the cost and upkeep of work clothes if the following two requirements are met.

                  •You must wear them as a condition of your employment.
                  •The clothes are not suitable for everyday wear.

                  It is not enough that you wear distinctive clothing. The clothing must be specifically required by your employer. Nor is it enough that you do not, in fact, wear your work clothes away from work. The clothing must not be suitable for taking the place of your regular clothing.

                  In other words, if there are uses for that outfit outside of work, you can’t deduct it, even if you don’t wear those specific clothes except at work. They care about possible use, not actual.

                5. Cat*

                  I don’t know, LBK. Specific suits required by a TV station seem pretty close to that requirement. Maybe they’re suitable for every day life, but most people aren’t wearing their good suits on a day-to-day basis (ones that have to be kept pristine for TV), and most people aren’t required to buy specific brands/styles of suits for work even at a business formal basis.

                6. LBK*

                  I’m not familiar with the stringency of suit requirements for the news world so I can’t speak specifically, but I don’t think you can argue that just because it has to be of a certain quality or has to be kept in good shape, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be considered suitable (no pun intended) for everyday wear. In this case I take “everyday” to mean it wouldn’t appear out of place in a normal life situation, not literally something you could wear daily without a problem – so wear and tear, etc. don’t factor in.

                  Aside from that, though, there are millions of people who aren’t newcasters that have to wear suits at work and they definitely would not be deductible.

                7. Cat*

                  I don’t know, there might very well be precedent on it, but I can see a compelling argument that suits meant to be worn on TV (and which we did hear have to be of a particular style) are a different beast than what most of us wear.

                8. fluffy*

                  I remember reading an item years ago when an IRS auditor was examining a performer’s returns and allowed her to deduct costumes she could not sit down in. True? But funny

                9. doreen*

                  My father had to wear a uniform for work. When my parent were audited, deducting the cost of the shirts was no problem, as various patches were required. The pants, however were a problem. The auditor was of the opinion that they were suitable for wear outside work- and they might have been ,if those green pants didn’t have that blue stripe down each leg. I think my parents convinced him, but my point is that the IRS doesn’t care if you don’t wear the clothes outside of work , or if you have to keep them in such good shape that’s it’s impractical to wear it outside of work . If it’s appropriate style-wise to wear it outside of work (even if only to a wedding or funeral) , it’s not deductible.

                  Of course, people can get away with all sorts of things if they aren’t audited. I’ve known people who deducted everything in their closet that wasn’t jeans and women who deducted every pair of pantyhose because they didn’t wear those items except at work. Works fine until the audit.

              2. LBK*

                I think there’s two ways to do this that are fair:

                1) If the company can swing it, buy everyone separate work phones and pay for the service. This avoids all kinds of issues with who has what services already, what services are used for personal vs. work use only, etc. Most companies should do this because frankly, if you require your employees to be available 24/7, this is a basic cost of doing business that’s unethical to pass on to them.

                2) If paying all the bills isn’t in your company’s budget or you truly only want everyone to have work access on their for emergencies, just pay any additional charges incurred as the result of work use. The obvious issues are:

                a) people with existing unlimited plans may say it’s unfair that they aren’t getting any of their bill covered, and
                b) if you up someone’s service or buy someone a phone that didn’t have one at all before, there are limited ways to make sure they’re only using it for work purposes and not taking advantage of their new free phone.

                It’s not perfect but I think it’s the best compromise.

                1. Human Resources Annon*

                  Currently, the law in most of the US is that companies do not have to pay for extra costs incurred on your cell phone plan due to work use. However, there was a court case in California last month and now California employers have to pay their employees for use of their personal phone for work purposes, even if the employee has an unlimited plan or the work use doesn’t otherwise increase their bill.

            2. Ezri*

              For me, the distinction is that most employees already have personal phones, and would have to get a second one. It’s like work computes – I have my own computer at home, but my employer still provided one for work instead of telling me which model to go out and buy.

              Mind you, this is coming from the perspective that many places have the ability to wipe devices containing company info, so you really don’t want work and personal information on the same device.

            3. My two cents...*

              The other line of thinking is that the ‘cost of attire’ would be built into the overall compensation. This is similar to considering the commute for a job, or that some jobs offer relocation assistance for particular positions.

              Whereas, I’m not at all comfortable supplying my personal cell number to customers. If the company expects me to be available to customers outside of office hours, they need to supply a ‘safe’ means to do so.

              1. Natalie*

                Yeah, a phone is different than a car or a uniform because, these days especially, a phone number is associated with a specific person. I would dislike being in the situation where I either had to screen all calls when I didn’t feel like taking a work call, or potentially take work calls at random and inconvenient times. I would also really dislike either having to change my number when I changed jobs, or field calls from a job I didn’t have.

                It’s more analogous, IMO, to expecting someone to use their personal email address for work rather than providing a company address.

              2. alownx*

                What compensation? They barely pay me enough to pay my rent and health, and now my employer wants me to pay $100 a month for a data plan that I won’t use except once per month.

            4. Nancie*

              Because the suits may only be worn for work, but they don’t have a feature that makes them annoying to use elsewhere.

              From the less extreme end, it would be like having company branding plastered all over it. Sure, I could use the suit outside of work, but I’d feel silly walking around in a suit that makes me look like a billboard. That would be equivalent to “your company email will only work on a Blackberry, so that’s what you have to buy”, for someone who doesn’t like a Blackberry for their personal phone.

              At the more extreme end, it’s like the work suit having a padlock on the zipper that will make the slacks/skirt self-destruct if the correct password isn’t entered. Phone equivalent: prior to my current phone that uses a finger print, I only locked certain apps on my phone. So my phone is always ready for me to use in an instant. And I still don’t use the “self-destruct after x wrong passwords” feature.

            5. Jessa*

              Suits are a one time expense, can be gotten at thrift stores, can be gotten at least at our Workforce place (they have a shop attached but you can get a couple free and gratis if you need them to get/keep a job.)

              Phones you pay for every single month. Most companies require contracts or special plans. IF you want to use the phone for anything non company the company can at will often wipe your phone without telling you first if you have company data on it.

              It’s outrageous to require someone to buy a piece of equipment that can cost up to 500 or more dollars, pay 70 dollars or more a month for using it, when they don’t need it for anything. A suit you can wear to fancy parties, religious observances, etc. A good suit lasts years if taken care of, etc. A smart phone depending on what your company requires you to put on it can need to be replaced yearly. What if that old iPhone mentioned above suddenly becomes not technical enough for next year’s usage. Most people are not being paid enough to deal with $70 or more a month in their budgets nowadays.

              If a company wants a phone in the hands of the employee, they should buy one, programme it, pay for it, and then say if you need a personal phone get one. You can’t use this for anything but work.

          2. tt*

            My dad doesn’t have a personal cell phone, computer, or the internet at home. He doesn’t need the internet for anything work-related, and he has a work phone for when he’s on call. But for most things, he can still do them the same way he always did without incurring expenses he can’t afford right now – he goes to the bank when he needs to do any banking, he pays his utilities in person or by mail, etc.

            One of these days, he’s going to finally have to give in, but only as a complete last resort.

            1. AB*

              Yeah, my mother-in-law doesn’t have a computer, the internet or a smartphone. They also live in an area of the country where they only get cell service from one provider, but not the one my company phone uses. Not only that, service is really spotty. When I told my boss that I would be unreachable for a long weekend while we visited her, he was incredulous. He honestly didn’t believe that there are people who don’t have internet and places where cell phones don’t work.

          3. INTP*

            Smartphones are used for way, way more than just work, as well, by most people who have them.

            I think we’re just reaching a point where this is something that the vast majority of employees and potential employees have, so it’s becoming standard and it’s considered your limitation (in terms of the jobs you might be qualified for) if you won’t use one. Kind of like how an employer is not obligated to buy you a car just because your job requires greater reliability or flexibility than the public transportation system can provide, or buy you a new wardrobe to meet the business casual dress code because you don’t own one yet.

        2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          I do see this happening, but per my rant below I’ll go kicking and screaming against this one – although in 10 years will be a moot point because the concept of not being completely connected to everyone at every time will be quaint and archaic.

        3. AP*

          I think another component to consider is that many young professionals are in the generation where it’s likely they already have a personal smartphone (OP would be an exception to this), and the thought amongst companies now is “rather than spending X to pay for everyone’s smartphone, I’ll pay them half of X to reimburse for their data”. I work in the marketing department for a healthcare company at a fairly junior level position. It’s not technically a requirement of my position to have a smartphone, but it certainly would be difficult to do everything I need to do without a smartphone (I’m looking at you, Instagram). My company reimburses me $20 a month to pay for the data/minutes/texts I use that are work-related and I’ve made it clear their expectations of being able to contact me outside of my scheduled hours while respecting my work/life balance.

        4. HAnon*

          I feel like it’s one thing to require that someone has that above a certain paygrade…but if you’re paying the employee below a certain amount per year, where that extra money really makes a difference, it’s unreasonable to expect them to incur that cost just because they might have to check an email randomly at some point while not in the office. Most things can wait. If the position is so demanding that 24/7 access is expected, the employee needs to be reimbursed via salary and benefits accordingly. Employees shouldn’t be expected to take on responsibility and non-reimbursable expense above their paygrade.

          1. Melanie*

            I agree. It really leads into a bigger issue than just having a smart phone for checking emails. She can agree to check emails once or twice over the weekend if there is a concern or a deadline coming up. But if they expect her to be available 24/7 for a given weekend (or on call) to rush into work, then that is the expectation that she is working. It would be acceptable that she is reachable at all times, but then she should be compensated through salary or benefits accordingly.

        5. Mints*

          Even if they pay for it, or give you a phone bonus or whatever, there are those horror stories about the company wiping the entire phone when the employee quits.
          So even if I have an unlimited data plan and the phone for work doesn’t cost me extra, I’m really nervous about using it for work (putting aside the boundaries issue)

        6. Feed The Ducks*

          Completely agree. Someone asked me if my company paid for my iPhone or my service since I use it for work and I was kind of incredulous. 60-70% of people in the US have smart phones (depending on what study you look at) and I’m guessing the number is even higher for people in jobs where you’d be expected to check your email after hours.

          If you don’t have one, you have to realize you’re the oddball.

          1. RobM*

            I totally have an iphone and would have to be held at gunpoint before I would give it up, but I would hesitate to connect it to work systems on anything other than 100% my terms.

            I like to think my terms are reasonable, mind you: I use a particular email client for work that only allows the work email admins (me!) to administer, erase and lock the email client and its contents rather than the whole phone, and I only turn on this work email system when I’m traveling for work, and certainly not out of hours.

            I’d take a very dim view of an employer that said “you must purchase at your own expense and then carry an ‘approved’ phone at all times and ‘be more connected’ ” (which we all know is a diplomatic way of saying you need to be at the beck and call of your boss all the darn time) without offering me appropriate compensation.

        7. Kirk W*

          My personal cell phone is MY PERSONAL cell phone. If my company wants to pay for my service then they get to dictate what goes on it (including company email). But I’m not using my data plan for work and not get reimbursed and be expected to answer emails 24/7 52 weeks a year.

      2. Mike C.*

        Mileage is reimbursed, and there are several orders of magnitude difference between the cost of a car and the cost of a smartphone. They also pay for the desk I work at, the laptop and monitors on that desk, and the heat and A/C in the office where that desk sits, all because it pertains to my job.

        1. Dan*

          They pay for all that stuff, they own it, they control it, they monitor it, they also support it. “BYOD” is an IT department’s worst nightmare, so there are business reasons for them to buy the equipment that you use.

          Most practical solution is to subsidize a plan. My old company did it for teleworkers. But I do draw the line with companies who say they have complete control of any device that ever connects to their network. Those companies reserve the right to remote wipe your phone. Nuh uh. You do that, you buy the phone and plan just like you do my work computer.

            1. Dan*

              That’s the one part of compliance training I always fail because 1) I never have to deal with it, and 2) It’s not common sense.

              Translation: I have no idea what your point is.

              1. Mike C.*

                Ok, so where I work, we have to be careful about data and conversations related to technologies that have significant restrictions as to which countries it is legal to be transferred to. With a phone my company owns and controls, they can put all sorts of crypto/security/remote wipe/etc they want. Everything is standardized and so on.

                If you go to a forced BYOD model, then you have to deal with every type of smart phone, different OSes, different versions, different hardware, is it jail broken and so on. Not to mention the differing security features of each phone, and the services it connects to. The iCloud issue comes to mind, but there will be others in the future.

                Thus, just have the company buy the phones and the plans and you have a much tighter control over these issues.

                1. Joey*

                  In other words, companies should spend a ton of money to buy, manage, and maintain company devices for employees that will only occasionally be asked to use them after hours? And the whole time the majority of employees could use their own devices for the same thing at little or no additional cost?

                2. Mike C.*

                  In other words, companies should spend a ton of money to buy, manage, and maintain company devices for employees that will only occasionally be asked to use them after hours?

                  Just like they spend a ton of money to buy, manage and maintain any other piece of equipment used in the regular day to day operations of the business.

                  And the whole time the majority of employees could use their own devices for the same thing at little or no additional cost?

                  Do you realize that A) companies can get significant discounts for having a corporate phone account B) you also get huge discounts in time and security maintaining only a few different models and OSes?

                  Did you also miss the part about the serious risks of export violations? How much do you think it will cost the company when the next iCloud type security incident happens and it’s not nude photos but export controlled data? How much do you think it will cost to lose a major government contract, or even the ability to receive government contracts? The investigations by the Departments of Commerce, State and possibly Homeland Security? And that’s just on the civil side of things.

                  Business expenses are for the business to pay. I don’t chip in for my computer, my desk or the heating and running water. I don’t pay for the business licenses or lobbying. If a few phones are way too much for your company to handle, then either use a shared phone, reevaluate the need to have everyone available 24/7 for free, or find something else to do. Of course it’s cheaper for a company to make their employees pay the bills, but that doesn’t make it right.

                3. AB*

                  I imagine not every individual in a company needs to access their email nights and weekends. A lot of companies control costs by only allowing individuals who have a real business need to have a company cell phone. If a person only needs to check work emails off hours very occasionally, then they probably don’t actually need to check work emails after hours and don’t need a company cell phone. If a one-off occasion arises where they do need after hours access, there are plenty of workarounds, like checking email from a laptop or computer or tablet, going into work, having a manager (who would likely have a company cell phone) handle the issue, etc.

                4. KellyK*

                  In other words, companies should spend a ton of money to buy, manage, and maintain company devices for employees that will only occasionally be asked to use them after hours? And the whole time the majority of employees could use their own devices for the same thing at little or no additional cost?

                  That’s kind of an odd conclusion to come to from what Mike C. said. The whole point of the discussion of export controls is that the company *can’t* safely just have everyone use their personal phone.

                5. RobM*

                  “In other words, companies should spend a ton of money to buy, manage, and maintain company devices for employees that will only occasionally be asked to use them after hours? ”

                  @Joey – if the company wants to:
                  1) Mandate that people will have these devices whether people want them or not.
                  2) Mandate that the device people have is on an approved list so that it can be “supported”.
                  3) Mandate that it can control those devices (e.g. connecting to corporate email system allows the email admin to wipe the employee’s device).

                  Then yes, I think at that point its entirely reasonable for employees to refuse to spend their own money at this point.

                6. Brett*

                  “In other words, companies should spend a ton of money to buy, manage, and maintain company devices for employees that will only occasionally be asked to use them after hours?”

                  It’s actually not very much. We get most devices for free (e.g. unlimited free iPhone 5s) with unlimited replacement for damage and upgrades every 12 months, lines are $40/phone/month unlimited, and we can use any of three vendors for our service (AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon). Tethering is included for another $12, or you can get an multivendor aircard for $40/mo. There are no upgrade, activation, cancellation, or shipping fees and accessories are heavily discounted. You could run a thousand phones with tethering for less than the cost of one employee.

                  On top of that, your employees get a 25% discount on their personal phones if you have a corporate account too.

                7. Joey*

                  Or you could cut your costs enormously and give your employees like $20/month to cover the extra calls, texts and emails their job requires and eliminate all of the staff and headaches that come with managing company devices.

                8. Mike C.*

                  If you want to cut costs, why don’t you rent the desks your employees use to them on a weekly basis and charge them every time they use the bathroom? That’s not illegal after all, so if all you care about are costs, what’s stopping you?

          1. GrumpyBoss*

            As someone on charge of wiping personal devices, I don’t enjoy it either. If you saw what I saw, you wouldn’t ever want to BYOD. However, I also don’t like cleaning up my network because someone plugged in their infested-ass personal device.

            Conclusion: I would love to see companies supply all needed equipment and ban personal stuff.

      3. Stephanie*

        But it seems like it can’t be that crucial if they haven’t paid for it. My friend’s a junior associate at a big law firm with screamy senior partners and they give them Blackberries or bill subsidies as they’re expected to be on-call. OP’s boss just seems uneasy because she’s not reachable 24/7, but hasn’t come up with a specific reason as to why she needs to be 24/7 reachable. If she’s checking email, I don’t see how the method matters.

        1. Traveler*

          I think OP is maybe in a gray area right now – where she’s working her way towards being one of the people that need work phones as they’re expected to be on call, but she’s a little too junior to warrant the company paying for it.

          Maybe a phone for the job you want, not the one you have situation?

          1. OP*

            My superiors all have smartphones, but it’s funny because our managers sometimes comment how “I’m going to call Bob to make sure he got that email; he’s really bad at checking emails.” This can be when Bob is in the office or out of the office. I can understand how it’s not our manager’s job to be the email reminder bot, but I do understand how it is often likely that you don’t see an email within 5 minutes of its arrival.

            I also understand how my superiors are my superiors and earned their right to be the way they are and I have to work my way to that role.

      4. Lily in NYC*

        To me, it’s a privacy issue. We actually have the choice of a blackberry or having emails come to our own smartphones. But that opens up a can of worms and I’ve heard of people having everything personal wiped off their mobile when they quit.

        1. DLB*

          I refuse to have my work email on my personal phone, because I’m basically giving my company the right to look at EVERYTHING on my personal phone and wipe it if I quit. NOPE. Not taking that risk. My personal life is none of their business. If I need to check my email when I’m not at work, I do it from a computer. If they want me to have 24/7 access, they can buy me a phone and pay for it. Boss doesn’t want to pay for a phone for me, so I check my work email only if I feel like it when I’m not working.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yep. Also, I use my smart phone for personal email, and I can tell you – having it suck down email as it happens eats battery like holy whoa. I have it set to check only when I open the email app!

            …so I totally wouldn’t get the email in a timely fashion -anyway-.

            1. Melissa*

              Yeah, I can’t deal with all the beeping and notifying every time I get an email, especially since I work at a university and am therefore on about a dozen listservs that send me pointless emails all the time. So I have my phone to not notify me when a new message comes in and I just check it when I get good and ready. It does pull my work email, but only because I have that forwarded to my main email account.

              1. OP*

                +1 I am on listservs for company newsletters or IT notifications for our global offices, which can be sent/arrive at any time of day or night. Those pings would be annoying.

                1. Natalie*

                  If you do end up having to get a smartphone, you can turn off your email notifications. The iPhone and presumably others also has a “do not disturb” setting you can turn on and off or schedule, and you’ll get no notifications except what you authorize.

      5. Vicki*

        Well, actually… many companies do provide company cars (or mileage). They do provide uniforms (or price reductions). They do provide smart phones (or pay part of the bill).

      6. YaelS*

        These examples are not analogous. For the first one, a more accurate analogy would be requiring employees to commute by car and then not paying for the cost of the car. And for the second, it would be requiring the employee to wear a costume – say she is a dancer or living history interpreter – and then not pay for the cost of the costume.

      7. kac*

        Requiring a smart phone (rather than just any phone) is more like requiring employees to drive a car that is model 2012 or newer. It’s one thing to say “we need to be able to reach you outside of work,” but it’s unreasonable to dictate the specific technology by which you are reached. In the same way that it’s reasonable to say you need to be at work on time, but you can get to work in a 1997 honda civic, a bicycle, or a brand new bmw.

    3. AH*

      I own and love my smartphone, but I don’t put my work email on it. I learned my lesson on that one! I haven’t had an employer ask me to do it though. Not sure how I would handle it!

      1. Vicki*

        I would request a separate phone for work (there are plenty of companies that do that).

        For AH and the OP, this is another way to push back: I want to keep my work and personal lives separate. No company property on my personal device. Co-workers should not be calling my home phone.

  2. Do*

    The pressures of being “always on” aside, do look into the T-Mobile “Walmart” plan – $30 a month, includes a good chunk of data. If OP can’t win this battle, they can at least keep spending the same monthly amount.

      1. JC*

        Yes, I second Virgin Mobile for a cheap smartphone plan—although it also has some pitfalls that the OP wants to avoid. Virgin Mobile offers older phones only, and I’d be surprised if any of them are as durable as the OP’s current phone; my 2-year-old Virgin Mobile phone does not work nearly as well as when I purchased it, and the operating system is becoming obsolete since it was old to begin with when I purchased it. The cheapest Virgin Mobile plan ($35/mo for unlimited data) does have a limited number of phone minutes, and costs extra for additional minutes. And Virgin Mobile generally has poorer phone/web service than some other more expensive plans, especially outside of bigger cities.

        You’re never going to be able to go days and days without charging a smartphone, but one way to prolong life would be to shut off data most of the time and essentially treat the smart phone as you treat your regular phone now, plus turning on the data when you need to be reachable by email (e.g., when you are not near a computer only).

        1. Mouse of Evil*

          I found a Kyocera smartphone on sale at Best Buy for $40, and have the $35/mo. Virgin Mobile plan. It’s frustrating as a smartphone, and the battery runs down quickly, but it’s not bad for the amount of time I spend with it. It’s a good device for testing websites, btw, because it’s likely that MOST users will have a better experience than what I get with it–so if I’ve done a site that works well on my own phone, it will be even better on most other people’s. :-)

      2. Felicia*

        I just got a plan through Virgin Mobile (in Canada), and I got a smartphone for the first time, and it’s a 34$/month plan and the phone was included. A 3 year old smart phone which they tried to discourage me from, but I like it.

    1. Traveler*

      This is a good option I think. Then perhaps if the data demands of the company push over the limit, OP could address this issue with the manager again in hopes of some sort of reimbursement when it goes over the limit? I feel like that would be a reasonable thing to do given the situation.

    2. Kenneth*

      There’s also Ptel, which runs on T-Mobile’s network. I’m on their $25/mo plan which gives you unlimited talk/text/data (2g), which if you only need it for e-mail, is really all the data you need. You can bring your own device, which it sounds like the OP does have already.

    3. Liz*

      Or Ting. I’ve been very happily using Ting for about 3 years – I have a shared plan, and because we’re low on usage it costs us about $25 a month for two devices (calls, text and data if we care to use it). We rarely use the data option, but have been known to check email via wi-fi (which is free, and less intensive on the batteries).

      You’d have to use over 500 minutes every month to push it over $30.

    4. Kat*

      I have MetroPCS and it’s 40/month, 35 if you bundle with someone. Their phones are pretty new, but they also support Google nexus devices which are low priced for what they are. T-Mobile supports nexus as well although their plan is more expensive- I forget how much.

  3. Pawnee Goddess*

    Ugh. This was my situation a few years at Old Company. They offered to pay my cell phone bill (which as a young professional who wasn’t making a ton of money at the time sounded AWESOME). What I failed to realize is that meant they had 24-hour access to me. So when I didn’t respond to 2 a.m. emails from my boss, it meant I was in trouble. It was horrible. Never again (if I can avoid it)!

    As AAM says, if the real issue is that they think you’re unreachable, that’s one thing. But I suspect they just want you to be accessible 24-7 to read emails, take calls, etc. I think a lot of it depends on your role and just how necessary it is that you are available at all times.

    I still hate Blackberries to this day. With a passion.

    1. AVP*

      For me the issue with a Blackberry is that it’s a separate item that you need to have in addition to your regular phone, which would drive me nuts. At least with an iPhone you can just have one piece of technology that has all of your email accounts organized in one place, plus texting and camera and instagram and an internet browser.

      Then again, I know I have one of those jobs where I need to be available most of the time and I’ve made my peace with it. If there was an option to leave the wok device at home on weekends I might think differently.

      1. Joey*

        Yep. Lugging around a second phone is a pain. Not to mention you really shouldn’t use it for personal things which makes it even more of a pain. I prefer a phone allowance.

        1. Dan*

          Until your company tells you that they can remotely wipe your phone at any time for any reason because there’s company data on it.

          1. Mike C.*

            This is my big concern. I don’t want my work data touching my home data. Furthermore, it’s to my company’s benefit that the two are kept separate – with all this cloud service hacking crap going on, I don’t want to have to deal with the headache of dealing with data export issues.

            1. Xay*

              This is my problem also. They have a BYOD program at the federal agency I work with but after reading the small print, there is no way I would grant access to my personal phone. I don’t want to get fired because a problem that should have only affected my personal phone granted a hacker access to government systems.

            1. Mike C.*

              *Arbitrarily erases and seven time over writes Joey’s personal computer*

              You had backups, right? No big deal! :D

              /Come on man, it is a big deal – it’s a personal device. Life happens. How many backups should I be keeping and paying for just so a company can avoid paying for a phone?

              1. Cat*

                Nobody is saying it’s a good thing for companies to do it, what I (and I think Joey) is saying is that sometimes it’s worth the risk in order to avoid the hassle of a separate device. My company pays for my data, but I paid for my own device and turned their blackberry back in because the pain of lugging both around was just way too much to deal. Maybe they’ll wipe it (probably not), but I’ll take the risk.

              2. Joey*

                Do you really think companies have nothing better to do than to arbitrarily wipe your phone? I’ve never actually seen it happen, even in a 10000+ org with several hundred IT folks that are hypersensitive about security. I’ve only heard of it happening so I’m assuming its not something everyone should be overly concerned about.

                1. My two cents...*

                  My company installs software monitoring stuff on all company-supplied laptops. If my virus protection is out of date, I receive an immediate email from IS, who then remotes into my laptop and fixes the issue. This isn’t to insure MY data/work is OK, but is merely a means for controlling possible issues that arise while using the company server or handling sensitive customer info.

                  We even get a cute little message at start-up that reminds us that it is company property and we should have ‘no expectations of privacy in its use’. Yeah, you’re not touching my personal cell phone, IS.

                2. KellyK*

                  The argument isn’t that companies have nothing better to do than arbitrarily wipe phones. It’s that an employee shouldn’t be expected to cover business expenses out of pocket *and* take on additional expense or effort because the company is exerting control over their personal device.

                  And wiping your phone if you quit, are fired, or are laid off is pretty standard practice. It’s not like “I don’t want my company wiping/having access to my personal files” is some paranoid fear that never happens.

                3. Brett*

                  We not only have the remote wipe software, but it ties into your security code. The phone security locks every time the screen turns off. Fail your security code ten times, and your phone is wiped and bricked. Only seen two people ever brick their own phones that way though (mostly because we have very few BYO devices on the system). The wiping capability is mandatory for our certification. The devices also have to be “always-on” to receive email. If they are disconnected from the cell network for a certain length of time, they automatically brick themselves.

              3. Observer*

                Agree with the others. Also, as a practical matter, it shouldn’t cost you too much to have backups of your personal stuff. iPhones and Google Android (vs AOSP) phones let you turn on automated backup for a lot of things, and it doesn’t have to burn up your data plan, because you can set it to back up only when on wi-fi. Your job can wipe the phone, but not your google / iCloud account. (You could use box, etc. as well if you wanted to.)

                1. Natalie*

                  Automated backup isn’t a great option if your cloud storage system has shitty security. Looking at you, Apple.

                2. Brett*

                  Our BYOD policy specifies that you have to install secure container software on the device which blocks the installation of any personal cloud solutions or backup software.

          2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            Yes, but except for separation from the company who would do that? And the only reason I’d wipe without warning would be if you did something so clearly egregious for which you were just fired that you can’t be trusted one more second. Otherwise I’ll work with you to get your personal stuff off.

            No doubt it’s not the same level of privacy – that is totally understandable that it bothers some people. It’s not a concern for me personally, but I totally get it.

            So if someone wanted to keep their phone private and only use work issued phone for work I’d totally understand that and yeah, it’s a pita for a guy to carry two phones. Because there are some downsides to a company phone. If you have a shared data plan and it’s not cushioned enough you have to be careful about overages. And you don’t want inappropriate stuff on there because if you accidentally send a naked selfie to a customer you’re going to have a bad time. :)

            I get not wanting to blur lines – but the company should offer an option where they are footing the bill for your use. If IT is okay with BYOD then that can be an option, if not then it’s carry two phones. Not ideal, but better than people who can’t easily afford it being slammed with additional charges (or hell, even if they can afford it – principle for me – but worse if it causes money stress.)

            And most of this is just a rant and not directed at you, Dan – sorry, shutting up now.

            1. Mike C.*

              I could see IT making a mistake and wiping the wrong phone by accident – think outsourced IT firm working with a large company here.

              Yeah, you’re well intentioned, but in a large firm it can be quite difficult to untangle while at work, not to mention on the road. What about situations where there is a major security leak in a common phone’s software over a evening or weekend and someone above tells you to nuke all the phones to prevent the risk of export sensitive or proprietary data from being let out into the open? It’s a rare thing of course, but there was the iCloud issue a few weeks ago, and earlier this year there was that massive server issue (can’t remember the name) as well.

              You know better than most that computer security is a damn hard thing to do as an expert, let alone as a lay person just trying to do their job. I could imagine that nuke button being used more than intended.

              1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

                Good point – I was coming at it from my limited scope of 20+ users/40+ devices and intentional wiping due to separation. I’m also using private FTP and not icloud or dropbox where yes, we could be targeted but it would be really specific and intentional…and we’re not the kind of company where that would be as big a risk as some others. Not that I don’t work very hard to safeguard our data, and it’s proprietary, but the market for it isn’t the same as for some so for many other companies the risk is far greater.

                And I totally understand people wanting to keep stuff separate from a personal standpoint. In a previous life when I wasn’t IT I didn’t have anything personal on my phone. And I do full disclosure with everyone about what we can and can’t see, that I’m not responsible for their personal data, etc.

                But your point is well taken that the risk to wiping varies wildly depending on the network environment.

                It’s a balancing act because people understandably don’t want to give up complete privacy by going full on company phone, but companies, also understandably, can’t take the risk of going full on BYOD. Some people are okay with less privacy, some ITs will do BYOD on a case by case basis (I have under specific circumstances and was okay with it – wouldn’t be carte blanche for everyone though.) Some people will opt to carry 2 phones.

                No perfect solution though.

                1. Tinker*

                  Yeah, the time I had a case where the company had the whole solid BYOD scheme with remote wiping and all, I was working for a huge company where IT was outsourced to several other countries and the policies were set by gods know who. And in general, while I liked my employer, I expected to be dispassionately ground up by an unthinking machine if I got caught in its gears.

                  I’m not necessarily too terribly bothered about these things on a practical level, and I did have my phone connected to the company webmail, but at the same time I was very clear on the point that “Not unless our relationship goes bad in some unforeseen way or we make a mistake” was not at all the same as “Never”.

                2. OP*

                  When commenters mention that backing up a phone costs money, how do they mean? How much does a phone cost to back up? Why does it cost money?

                3. KellyK*

                  When commenters mention that backing up a phone costs money, how do they mean? How much does a phone cost to back up? Why does it cost money?

                  I’m not sure on the actual costs, and they probably vary considerably, but it depends on how you back it up. Plugging your phone into your computer and copying everything doesn’t cost anything except disk space (which is usually negligible).

                  There are services that will do automated back-ups, which cost varying amounts. (Some might be free too.) MyBackupPro looks pretty affordable—it’s a $5 app and the first 50 mb of storage is free, and you can get more for a buck or two a month. But with that, there’s also the data cost if it’s automatically backing up when you aren’t on wifi.

            2. A Cita*

              And you don’t want inappropriate stuff on there because if you accidentally send a naked selfie to a customer you’re going to have a bad time. :)

              Though the customer might have a good time. ;)

            3. Dan*

              Thanks, but you’re not the admin of every IT department everywhere. I really am touchy about fine print. If anyone reserves the right, they reserve the right. People get burned all of the time for signing stuff that the contract writer says is “no big deal” or “we never enforce it.” Yeah. It’s no big deal until you decide it is, or you don’t enforce it until you decide you want to. The the next guy says, “Duh, it was in the fine print. What did you expect them to do? They told you they could do it!”

              Sorry on this one Jamie.

              1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

                No, you’re right – I conceded this in my reply to Mike C. somewhere. I was far too myopic in my response and not thinking about other more common environments.

                I also assume anything in the fine print can and will happen in life, I’m happy with my trust issues.

            4. Erin*

              Depends on the industry. I have some relatives that work for a government contractor. Certain agencies are very picky about emails being sent overseas. One CIA analyst picks the wrong address from the drop-down menu, and suddenly the whole company’s phones are wiped.

          3. Cat*

            To me, that risk worries me less than the known harm of lugging around another device that I have to remember to charge (it’s hard enough for me to keep one powered up). I just don’t keep anything irreplaceable on my phone.

            1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

              I know it’s not full solution, but I’ve recently discovered a pretty great ancillary charger that charges fast, holds a full iPhone charge (because the 5s SUCK and their batteries were made by demons) and bonus – cool flashlight with three settings, one super bright so even in a pitch black parking lot I’m safer walking to my car – lights up like you wouldn’t believe.


              I have no affiliation with them except as a happy customer – I always have 2 fully charged in my purse at all times because did I mention the my iPhone won’t hold a charge for 5 minutes?

              And bonus – pink – but they also come in gray and black and some other colors that aren’t pink.

              So anyway – not trying to spam – but a solution for those of you like me who are either have stupid phones or regularly forget to charge tablets, phones, etc.

              1. Adam V*

                > because the 5s SUCK and their batteries were made by demons

                Do you possibly have one of the 5s that they issued a “recall” for? There’s a form you can fill out to check to see if Apple will replace it for you for free.

              2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

                Just a reply to everyone – check their Amazon store for sales because I saw the link and I was paying around $8.00 a couple of weeks ago and got 2 for $13 something.

                And they didn’t have the 5S in stock and I didn’t want to go to another store so I got the 5C which was one of the worst mistakes in my life and I’ve taken it in over and over. My boss just told me to go buy a 6 even though I’m not due for an upgrade because it’s been such a hassle, but I’m too cheap even with other people’s money to do that retail and I’m just pissed so will fight till it’s fixed.

                When charging it gets so hot it’s physically painful to the touch. Seriously – this thing is trying to kill me.

                1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

                  I see I typed 5S initially – but meant 5C. I really need to teach my fingers to type what I actually mean, not what I think.

              3. Melissa*

                And it’s cheap, too? I have one from Halo (actually, I have two, but one of them randomly stopped working) and that one’s pretty good, too. Also has a flashlight and holds a full iPhone charge, or something around half of an iPad. And it comes in a lot of colors and designs.

      2. Chinook*

        I prefer Blackberries because you can have personal and business items on them and they are partioned (something I could never figure out how to do with a company iPhone and they refused to let me use my Blackberry for work because the boss thoguht Apple was the BEST THING EVER, so I was stuck with 2 phones). Since the OP would be “upgrading,” the model would be irrelevant since she could still use her private number and access work emails through them. Plus, it sounds like hers is a BYOD company since her boss offered up a coworker’s old iPhone (hopefully with the coworker’s permission).

    2. tt*

      That’s miserable. I’m generally asleep by 10 and awake by 6. No one is ever going to get a response from me at 2 in the morning!

      1. Melissa*

        Even if I AM awake at 2 am, which is rare but possible these days, I certainly don’t want to be answering an email from my boss. My supervisor has emailed me in the wee hours between 2 and 5 am, but I’m definitely not answering him until after 8 am. And I made a policy with my (undergrad) students to only answer their emails between about 8 am and 6 pm on weekdays and MAYBE on Sunday afternoons. Otherwise they get the notion that you’re available 24/7.

    3. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I see ads (often at startups) that list a company-provided smartphone as a benefit. That is not a benefit IMO.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        I’ve heard people say this about company gyms, too. It looks like a benefit, but it’s really a sign that people are expected to be at work all the time. (I have no personal experience with this, so I don’t know if it’s true.)

        1. Stephanie*

          Gym, I’m unsure about. I could see that. It’s when a company starts getting into Google-level of benefits (free meals, onsite massages, dry cleaning), it’s like “Ok…you just want me to live here.”

          1. Melissa*

            Haha, when I was younger Google amenities sounded like a dream. It was only once I got older that I started being suspicious of companies that offered the Google outlay of amenities – especially since some of my friends were moving into the work world, and one or two of them actually went to work at Google and said straight-up that the reason they have all that cool stuff is because they expect you to be there all the time,

        2. the gold digger*

          Actually, for me, the company gym is nice because I don’t want to waste lunch just eating. I can eat at my computer and then go work out at lunch. I have not noticed that people at my new job are here really early or staying really late.

          (In fact, I was really happy the day I was here at 5:15 – I usually leave at 4:30 – and I scared the cleaning guys because they are not used to seeing anyone that late.)

        3. books*

          The two places I worked that had gyms, this was not the expectation. It was a perk (and also kept the company from offering fitness benefits to outside gyms).

    4. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      That’s an unreasonable expectation, though.

      I have my servers set to text me if there is an issue, ditto texts from power company, and we run 3 shifts so I need to check every text/call that comes in no matter what time in the wee hours. But everyone knows not to call unless it’s a true emergency and email is fine if you’re up and working, but no middle of night texts because i will get up and check them …and hate you. But we’re not a texting company anyway, unless email is down because power is down in which case believe me, I’m already up and chewing Tums.

      But if they expect you to be on call 24/7 for any random email that’s really unreasonable and not the access purchased with a cell phone plan. They want to purchase that much of your life, that’s a huge salary issue (if one would even consider it, for many no dollar amount makes that okay.)

      I respond to a ridiculous amount of email off hours out of habit, but everyone knows if it’s not an emergency to not expect an answer until I get back in the office – so if you get it early it’s a bonus. Emergencies if I don’t respond to an email marked URGENT in 10 minutes text or call – because I didn’t see it.

      And emails marked URGENT…must be. :)

      1. louise*

        Obviously “cake in break room” during normal business hours is an acceptable use of the urgent feature.

    5. Vicki*

      Anecdote –

      The time: 1985. No smartphones but people did have pagers.
      The scene: My co-worker was given a pager.
      The punchline: He lived about 40 miles from the company, on the other side of a ridge of hills. No service for the pager. How sad.

  4. Adam*

    I agree with Alison. In the high speed world of the media being connected at all times is pretty much a commandment these days, so I think from the higher ups for you this much more about that than a keeping up with the Jones sort of deal. If you can verify just how much you need to be plugged in and assure them of your ability to be responsive when needed the cell phone issue will probably drop.

    1. M. in Austin!*

      I agree. I think it’s definitely possible that they are just uncomfortable with the idea that you don’t “need” a smartphone. I think finding out what your boss really wants (how often you need to check email?) will help you solve the issue.

    2. Vicki*

      If it is necessary for them to be comfortable, they can buy the phone (or give you Bob’s old iPhone) and pay the bill.

      If they’re not willing to put the company $$ where their comfort is, they’re not really that uncomfortable.

  5. Joey*

    If the boss is saying you need to be available to answer emails at all times that’s pretty clear to me that she expects you to have a phone with email.

    Its possible it really may not matter how frequently you’re contacted if the contacts are important. I’m in the same position actually. I rarely get emails after hours that can’t wait for a response until the next morning, but when I do its hugely important that I respond immediately. And it would be really difficult to ask others to remember that they need to follow special instructions to get a hold of me when every other person uses email.

    And don’t worry a whole lot about people now flooding you with after work emails. You have to condition them to understand that if its not an emergency you won’t be responding after hours. If you condition them to expect responses after hours they will continue to expect it.

    1. Cat*

      My job is also like that and, I will say, there is a mindset that you can get into where you see the email but don’t let it ruin what you’re doing unless it’s truly urgent. It takes some practice but it’s doable.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      +1. I have access to email on my smartphone and unless *I* consider it an emergency, I do not answer emails after I leave the office for the day. If it’s a genuine emergency, the account executives will text me with “read your email!”

      Sometimes it’s just about making your boss FEEL like she can get to you whenever she needs you.

    3. Traveler*

      “And it would be really difficult to ask others to remember that they need to follow special instructions to get a hold of me when every other person uses email.”

      This! The people that don’t have email, reliable internet, or in this case smartphones rightly or wrongly, are going to be the last people you rely on when you have a fast moving situation at work, or need a quick reply. That means that Tyrion or Jon are going to get priority over you, and rightly or wrongly start being seen as the “better” employees. It’s not fair – but it definitely happens.

      1. Windchime*

        I’m wondering what kind of jobs you all have that warrant this kind of immediate availability! The 24/7 connectedness, the immediacy of being expected to check texts and emails in the middle of the night or on Sunday afternoon….what a pain. I’m in IT, but honestly, unless I’m on call or I forgot to check something in and it’s breaking the build on Release Day, it can wait.

        Are these issues that people are talking about (not necessarily just you, Traveler!) *really* so urgent? Or are we just all caught up in the idea that it’s so important to be connected to our jobs 24/7?

        1. YaelS*

          This! When a cellphone went off in my yoga class once, the teacher remarked, “Unless you are an ER doctor, cellphones OFF!”

  6. BRR*

    I think some people are just uncomfortable that others don’t have smart phones or because they use their smart phone to check their email they have a hard time understanding that it can be done another way. I feel like if they think you need a smartphone to do your job they should pay for it in the same way they pay for a computer or a desk. Also the concept of allowing work email on personal phones makes me nervous after hearing how companies can wipe everything from a personal phone due to an agreement to access work email in the first place.

    1. Scott M*

      A simple way around ‘allowing’ work email on your phone is just to set up a rule in Outlook (assuming that is your email software in the office) to forward all your work email to your personal email account.

      I use Gmail, and I just have all my incoming work email tagged with a label “Work” and segregated from my other emails.

      I did this on my own (even though I also have a work Blackberry, I just don’t carry it everywhere) just so I could keep in touch if needed. But I’m not expected to be available 24/7.

      1. CAA*

        This would be a security violation in my workplace (government contractor). I also have a Gmail account provided by the government, and we’re not allowed to forward that email to our company email account either.

        1. sam*

          it obviously depends on the industry/role/etc., but totally agree. I’m an in-house attorney at an insurance company, and this would be a firing offense (and possibly a bar violation).

          My company switched to a BYOD policy a few years ago, but requires our company email to go through the Good for Enterprise application (which can be used on iPhone or android devices). It’s a pain in many ways, as it requires a separate login (and our company requires password timeouts after 15 minutes), but it keeps the company email secure and separate from your personal email. The company then reimburses us up to $50/month for our phone/data plans.

          I’m of two minds about email outside of work. I’m old enough that when I started working professionally in the 90s, blackberries weren’t a thing, and even accessing the internet at home required dial-up, which was not really conducive to any “real” work. Meaning that if we junior law firm associates were waiting for document deliveries (from, say, a financial printer), we were literally stuck in the office all night. While Blackberries gave our bosses more access to us away from the office, they also were in some ways very freeing in that we could do these late-night vigils and sign-offs from the comfort of our couches in our pajamas. For professions where the expectation was always 24/7 availability even when the tools didn’t exist to actually enable it, smartphones were a godsend.

      2. Elizabeth*

        Setting that up would be a firing offense here. It violates the federal security rule for healthcare known as “HIPAA”, which includes a standard for “no protected health information sent in plain text over unsecure networks” (such as the Internet). Since a substantial portion of the email I receive internally has patient information in it, that would set us up for huge fines.

        1. Melissa*

          …but does sending it on your email not violate that anyway? My academic medical complex had the same rule about not forwarding your email to Gmail, but sending patient information via email on the university’s network (also over email) would’ve had the same problem for us. (As a health researcher this applied to our data, and we solved the problem by using encrypted USB data sticks and encrypted VPN services to share data instead of email. In fact, the university started disallowing us from sending identifiable patient information through email soon after this anyway.)

          1. Elizabeth*

            Not necessarily. Our network has a firewall between us & the world, and it is all contained within a single mail server, thus keeping it off an open network. We’re a community hospital.

            The key difference is that you’re talking about an academic medical center. Academia has this sticky issue of “academic freedom”, which often comes into conflict with best practices for information security, and which can result in everyone being directly on the internet, not behind a firewall. In most academic institutions, the information technology & information security staff have given up on best practices and moved to just doing base data protection. Losing your job because you went head-to-head with tenured professors tends to be a career-limiting move. (My husband is the network architect for the local university; some of his stories about these battles make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.)

      3. PizzaSquared*

        I’ve never worked at a company where this would be allowed, or considered even remotely OK. I urge anyone who is considering doing this to check with their company’s IT department to make sure it’s acceptable.

        On my iPhone, I set it so my company email doesn’t add to the number of unread on the app badge, and if I want to ignore work email, I just set the Mail app to only show me my personal inbox. It’s fairly easy to ignore work email on vacation and such. Since my company (and in fact the last three companies I worked for) uses Google Apps for their internal email, I can also use the Gmail app for my work email, if I really want to keep it entirely separate.

      4. snarkalupagus*

        This isn’t allowed in my company either. I’m fortunate that they pay for my Blackberry and that we have a culture that treats off-hours contact much the way Jamie’s does–texts or calls for true emergencies, emails that can wait until business hours. I check it twice an evening and let it go otherwise. I’m in product support, so I am expected to be available to resolve issues for my team at any time, but am fortunate that they don’t occur all that often. And vacation time is respected.

        I prefer to maintain the separation between church and state, as it were, and find that, for me, the price of dragging two devices around is low for the peace of mind it provides. My personal life and personal device are…personal.

      5. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        This would not be okay in any company I’ve ever worked for and no way would I allow this.

        If you need access to company email you will get access legitimately – web based, to a device, whatever. If you aren’t given legitimate access outside of the office you have no business checking email outside of your work hours.

        In your case you say you are given legitimate access via a blackberry, but you don’t take it everywhere. But if you aren’t expected to be available 24/7 why do you need access to email when away from your blackberry.

        And if you keep in touch from personal email you’re now using your personal email account for work purposes and responding from there. There are times where this can be necessary for some positions when email is down, but as you did this for your own convenience I am surprised your company is okay with getting responses from emails they sent to your work email from your personal email.

        You’re basically just setting up a permanent pipeline to shoot all work related email to your uncontrolled outside email. If your company is okay with that it’s their call – but for anyone reading you should know this would be a huge violation some places and could cost you your job in some cases.

        Circumventing access on your own is always a bad idea.

        1. Melissa*

          but as you did this for your own convenience I am surprised your company is okay with getting responses from emails they sent to your work email from your personal email.

          You can set up your work email as an alias/send from address on Gmail, so the company wouldn’t necessarily understand that it’s coming from the company address. In fact, if you do, Gmail defaults to responding from whatever email address it was sent to – so if the email was sent to, the response would automatically come from when you hit reply.

          I know a lot of workplaces don’t allow it judging by the comments above – but a lot of workplaces either do or haven’t passed judgment on it at all. At my former university everyone was allowed to forward to Gmail until about 2-3 years ago. Then medical center employees & students were not allowed to, but those who worked with the non-medical side of the university could, and in fact our IT website has instructions for how to do so. And some divisions of our university are using Google Apps for their mail now.

          1. De (Germany)*

            The reply doesn’t actually come from the other account; you can see in the mail headers where it was actually sent from. In Gmail for example, the option to see those headers is about two clicks away and any IT person knows how to see this.

      6. Cassie*

        We recently got an email from IT saying that we shouldn’t use gmail for work purposes (although they have set up google apps for students already), but a lot of our professors forward their university email to their gmail account (and access them through their smartphones). I do too, but the stuff I deal with is not covered by federal policy (e.g. FERPA, HIPAA) nor is it proprietary (e.g. invention disclosures, etc).

  7. Elizabeth West*

    This should be a business expense for the company. If they are emailing you sensitive work information, and they want you to check it on your phone, then it should be their phone. In my company’s industry, your work device, if stolen or lost or if you are discharged, will be wiped immediately. That means if you’ve got sensitive information on that phone, it is gone, along with ALL your personal info. I would not want the company’s or a client’s information on my personal phone anyway. It’s a liability I don’t want to assume with my personal devices.

    If they won’t pay for it, then it’s reasonable to refuse since it’s a huge extra expense for you (and with the security issue), but unfortunately, you may have to find a different company to work for.

    1. Joey*

      So if they expect you to do some work on say a word document at home do you expect them to provide you with the hardware and software to do it?

      This position sounds unreasonable.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Yes, actually. I do. I expect to be issued a company laptop if that is the case.

        All of my actual work has to be done on work-provided hardware per company policy. That way they know that all devices connected to the VPN meet the security requirements, among other things.

        1. Joey*

          Absolutely there are companies that go above and beyond, but expecting the company to provide you something that most people already have isn’t really that unreasonable.

          1. QC*

            I actually don’t think it is unreasonable. I don’t have Microsoft Office on my home computer due to not wanting to spend the money to have a program I just won’t use. Work pays for my phone bill (I bought my phone off an approved list) and if I wanted a laptop I would have been issued one. I personally have no desire to take my work computer home every day when I can do 95% of my work email on my phone or I can hop on google docs and write something up.

            If I worked for a company who didn’t pay for my cell phone bill and expected me to be connected to them 24/7 I would take that to my manager. They want me to be accessible at 2 am on a Saturday or when I am on vacation? They better be willing to pay for it. In my opinion a $70-$100 cellphone bill a month and/or a a company laptop that is my only work computer is completely worth the trade off for both parties.

          2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            I don’t know anyone who has office on their home computer unless they use it for work or school – it’s absolutely a business expense. Or tell people about Open Office (when applicable, which for most people is most of the time) and show them how to save them as office file extensions.

            But anyone who is regularly working from home, and expected to do so either because they have the flexibility or it’s part of the job, should be on a company laptop with a VPN. Then they don’t need additional anything thanks to RDP.

            I wouldn’t go buying office for everyone who has to work from home once in a while, so I have a couple of loaner laptops with the basics loaded and people can sign out when they need them. Going to be home waiting on the plumber tomorrow? Here’s a laptop with the VPN good to go – instructions on how to connect and pull up desktop on desktop. Done.

            1. Hlyssande*

              Yes, that’s exactly it. At my company, very few people under supervisor level have a company laptop. However, my little department has a loaner that can be taken home for things like Sunday morning smoke testing or a late night conference with someone in China.

              The only time I ever access my work email from a personal device is to call out sick and set an out of office.

              1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

                I’d prefer princess – fewer responsibilities and prettier crowns.

                (Oh – go check the Sunday free for all thread in a few minutes – Hildi, too – have an off topic thing and thought about you guys.)

                But yeah – don’t tell anyone but IT is 50% common sense, 45% Google, and 5% attitude. It’s people thinking it’s complicated which keeps them from flooding our market.

                1. the gold digger*

                  Well, I was the Data Queen at a job once. I had a great avatar.

                  (And PS – I forgot to mention it yesterday – but my condolences on the loss of your parents, as well. People can be kind of dumb when it comes to how to talk about that stuff.)

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Well, I have it on mine, but that’s because I use Word for writing, etc. But I can and do use other applications for that. We were able to get Office for our personal computers through work at a discount, and I had an old version, so I went for it.

          3. Natalie*

            I think you have it exactly backwards – I’d venture most companies that expect people to work from home provide laptops, software, and a VPN if needed to do so. “Above and beyond” would be the employee who works from home without those items.

      2. CAA*

        Really? We provide laptops for all exempt employees for exactly that reason. They use them as their primary machines in the office, and take them home when they need to work after hours.

      3. MiaRose*

        Specifically, if the document is required to be made using software which a person does not have and does not plan to buy, then, yes, it is feasible to ask the company to at least provide the software, or reimburse for the software purchase.

        Other than that, I tend to use all my own stuff to create any work documents. The only time I requested a purchase from my boss was for software that I did not own, and I would not have purchased myself for personal use. If my documents are numerous, we have an account at a copy place that I can hook up to, and print copies there. I don’t own MS Word, personally, but I do use another program that can save to Word docs.

        1. MiaRose*

          Forgot to mention, there aren’t really security issues for the things I produce, since much of it is advertising materials.

      4. Bunny*

        A lot of companies you’re expressly not allowed to work on documents at home for security reasons – if you’re handling sensitive data such as bank details, card details, addresses, medical information or anything like that. None of the office jobs I worked at allowed me to even access my work email from home, let alone spreadsheets and customer information. Those individuals who specifically needed to – my manager for example – were issued a company laptop and phone for this purpose.

      5. Auditoholic*

        At my company, yes. I’m not allowed to access, work on, create, or otherwise do anything work related on phones/computers not provided by the company. All drives are disabled on my work laptop (I cannot use a flash drive out even put a CD in it). They are extra serious about nothing being placed on the devices or removed from them. If I so much as forward a work email to my personal account it’s grounds for immediate termination. So to answer your question, yes I do expect them to provide the hardware and software for me to perform my job.

      6. PizzaSquared*

        Absolutely. In fact, I’d not expect it to be allowed to have work data on my personal computer. This is a major security risk.

        1. Windchime*

          Or SQL Server, or Visual Studio, or Team Foundation System. Fortunately for me, my company allows us to remote in via the VPN so I don’t need all that stuff at home.

      7. KellyK*

        If you already have the software, and there aren’t confidentiality issues that prevent you from putting the document on your personal computer, sure, it’s reasonable to use it rather than asking them to buy you a laptop if you don’t already have one. *But* if they expect you to work from home on a regular basis, yes, either your normal work computer should be a laptop or there should at least be loaners that employees can check out as-needed.

        Also, Word (or another word processing tool) is something most people have. I don’t think that really fits the analogy to the smartphone, when they’re asking her to buy a new and more expensive phone solely for work. It’s much more like asking you to buy Adobe Acrobat and install it on your home computer, just in case they want you to tweak a PDF on a weekend.

      8. Xay*

        Yes. If my employer wants to me to access work documents and work on them at home, they should provide the computer to do so. I work in SPSS and SAS – there is no way I would purchase personal licenses so that I could complete my work at home.

      9. Elizabeth West*

        We have company laptops. If we work at home, we use those.

        In our industry, the information is locked down tight. We can’t work at home except through the VPN. To use your own device is not secure. And I really wouldn’t want them to be wiping it if they thought it was compromised. Would you?

    2. Just tea for me, thanks*

      I agree. I have had a Blackberry from work and and Android phone which was mine personally. It does mean lugging around two phones, but in my opinion, is worth it to avoid mixing business with private. After my contract at said job entered, my Blackberry was completely wiped. Really, you don’t want to mix the two. If the company feels it is vital for their employees to be available 24/7, they should provide for the phone, just as they do for other items, such as your work computer

  8. Craig*

    Unless you’re in medicine, government or law enforcement, no industry should require that one should be checking emails outside of the regular office hours.

    I have a regular mobile phone and only pay $100/year to use and it is just fine.

    Worse comes to worse, get the smartphone and continue with what you are doing – returning important calls, checking messages when you get the chance. Don’t feel the need to remain plugged in 24/7.

    1. Gina*

      Which plan is this? Mine is only $10 a month and even that’s a stretch since I only work part-time. Even $20 less a year would be nice.

    2. Joey*

      There are tons of industries and managers that beg to differ.

      If someone working for me after hours needs an answer to a question its a whole lot easier to answer via email than interrupt whatever I’m doing with a phone call. Texts just lend themselves to shorthand conversations which don’t always work well.

      1. Loose Seal*

        I have to agree about texts. I think texts should be used for quick notes like “will be an hour late today” and any conversation that requires a back and forth should move to email or a phone call. But that’s because I hate typing out texts feeling as though the other person is sitting there, phone in hand, waiting for my reply. Plus, I spent years paying per text so I never got into the habit of having conversations that way. If I controlled the world, texting wouldn’t have ever gotten to be A Thing.

        1. the gold digger*

          Plus texting is such a pain – one letter at a time with my forefinger. I am too slow. And yes, I am still annoyed with my brother in law for getting my mom a smartphone and putting her on his plan and then TEACHING HER TO USE THE VOICE FUNCTION TO TEXT. Now I get texts like, “So what are you having for lunch?” or “Is it going to snow there today?” I love my mother but I do not want to text with her 1. while I am at work or 2. ever. (I don’t even text with my husband unless it’s something like, “Plane late.”)

      2. OhNo*

        It sounds like, in the OP’s case at least, it would be pretty easy for someone to send a quick text that says “check your email ASAP”. You don’t need to have email on your phone to be connected – you just need to be reachable in some fashion.

        1. Cassie*

          From the employer’s perspective – but then how is the OP going to check his email, if he doesn’t have a smartphone and happens to not be at home/near a computer?

          Back before I had a smartphone, I had unlimited texting so I set up my Gmail account to forward new incoming messages to my phone (I only turned it on when I left for the day). So I got to see what fires I needed to put out, but I had no way of putting them out (so to speak). If someone called me to discuss an emergency, at least I could respond to them right then and there.

    3. Ezri*

      I agree. :) Some people work to live, not live to work. There’s a reasonable expectation for being available for urgent communications, and then there’s being chained to your work email. Find that balance.

    4. jag*

      “no industry should require that one should be checking emails outside of the regular office hours.”

      Could we stop with the hyperbole.

      I work in a pretty mellow organization, but we deal with things happening all around the world. At key times, it’s expected I check email very early in the morning or overnight to deal with things happening in Europe and Africa (I’m in the US). It’s expected that I sometimes work odd hours. That’s part of what we’re paid for.

      1. Craig*

        Nothing is important enough that it can’t wait until one walks into the office the next morning.
        Outside of the industries I mentioned; nobodies going to die or get into any danger by waiting a few hours.

  9. AnonEMoose*

    I have a smartphone with a decent data plan, unlimited text, and 300 talk minutes for $35/month through Virgin Mobile. I did have to buy the phone upfront, but that was less than $100 (it’s also not an iPhone, but it works for what I need). So depending on where you are, there are options available.

    One of the reasons I’ve never tried for a management position is that I don’t want to deal with “needing” to be available 24/7. I need my recharging time away from work. So I agree with AAM’s advice about talking more with your boss about what this is really about. Maybe something can be worked out.

  10. Observer*

    This is a good response with one MAJOR exception. If you tell your boss that you don’t want to wind up increasing you cell phone bill by $70 a month, you may wind up looking like you are REALLY out of touch. Even Verizon, which would never be my first choice for cost, has an unlimited voice and text with 500mb of data for $45 per month. If it’s just about checking email and occasionally checking something on line, that’s plenty. And, there are other less expensive plans out there.

    1. Observer*

      By the way, I don’t want to negate the philosophical issues. Others are right that a smart phone could be more useful than you expect. Even though I love my smartphone, I don’t think there is anything wrong with deciding not to get one. You just don’t want to make statements of fact that could make you look out of date, especially in a field like media. And, you really should really consider if you are making a decision based on reasonably complete information. The fact that you are so unaware of lower cost cell phone plans say you might not be.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      If the person is in the US–for example, plans in Canada are significantly more expensive and there’s like a third of carriers. It’s quite possible it would be that much more.

      1. Colette*

        I am in Canada and my cell plan (voice, text, & data) with Koodo is $35/month. It’s not a lot of data, but it’s enough for what I need.

  11. Nerd Girl*

    I don’t find phones user friendly to do much more than text, call, or play Bubble Witch. I am on several committees for volunteer activites in my community and will only answer emails that require a word or two in response with my phone. Other than that, I wait until I am able to access my email from home. So far I haven’t had any issues.
    As to cost: I went through MetroPCS. I have three smart phones on my plan with unlimited talk, text, and limited Data (which so far, we’ve never even met) for $90 a month. It meant paying for the phone up front but as long as you’re not set on the newest, shiniest, prettiest phone you can get a deal. The three phones cost just under $500, but they’re paid for, my bill doesn’t kill me and I’m not locked into a contract.

    1. Chinook*

      “I don’t find phones user friendly to do much more than text, call, or play Bubble Witch.”

      As someone who had an iPhone for work and a Blackberry for pleasure (and friends with Androids), the difference is not the OS but whether or not it has a physical keyboard and a decent autcorrect. I can do lengthy emails on my Blackberry with no issues and prefer to use it over a tablet with a touch screen keyboard at home. Blackberry also allows me to open PDFs on my phone and edit spreadsheets and word documents, which has been very useful in allowng me to take care of some committee work during long commutes.

      Without meanign to sound to pretentitous about brands, you sometimes have to shop for a phone based on what you want to use it for instead of the cool factor. I considered something other than BB last time I bought one and just couldn’t find something else that I could use as a tool in the same way.

      1. Observer*

        You are correct that you need to shop for what you NEED or what is genuinely useful, rather than the “cool” factor. But, the field moves so quickly that what’s out there, and what you might find useful might change.

        So, if someone is looking for a new phone, what was true even a year ago may no longer be quite the case. BB is still the only brand with a physical keyboard, so if you need that, that’s still you choice. However, there are a lot of choices in Android in terms of soft keyboards, which means choices for auto-correct, some which are better for different people. Reviews indicate that the new iOS8 keyboard and auto-correct are much improved, but I would wait and see how that works out, if that’s an issue for you. And, if you don’t want to pay for the most recent iPhone, that’s out of the running, as well. Opening PDFs on Android is definitely not an issue, and I’m fairly sure it’s not been a problem on iPhones for a while, either. Both iOS and Android also have choices for opening documents, if that’s something you need to do. I find the larger screen really useful on the rare occasions that I need to do that, so that’s a tradeoff you need to consider.

      2. Melissa*

        I think it depends on what you’re used to. I had a BlackBerry and I now have an iPhone; I find the on-screen keyboard easier than the physical one on the BB, especially since the BB’s keys were so small. I can write a decent email on my iPhone; I have several text conversations with various people during the day and I can open PDFs and edit spreadsheets and Word documents on my iPhone, too (with a variety of apps, but Microsoft Office has an iPhone app too)

  12. Dan*


    I used to think like you did. Work doesn’t pressure me at all, in fact, for security reasons, we can’t get email on our personal phones, and only higher ups get company provided phones. Say what you want about our IT department, but it takes away from the feeling of needing or having to be constantly tied to our emails.

    But when I started exploring my options for phones, I was extremely surprised. I have a Nexus 5 phone from Google (costs $350 new) and is a decent phone, albeit with a shorter batter life than I would like. I also use a plan from Ting (which is a Sprint MVNO) that costs me about $20/mo. I get 100 minutes of talk, 100 texts, and 100 MBs of data. 500 minutes, 1000 texts, and 500 MB of data would cost me $32/mo. Keep in mind that you only pay for data when you are not attached to a WiFi signal. It’s easy for me to stay under 100 MB.

    I will tell you that if you go out *at all* the smart phone makes your life so much more convenient. I used to spend quite a bit of time preplanning every outing to a new area or restaurant. Scribble down an address, phone number, blah blah. With the smart phone? I can just go.

    I spend less money on my phone plan now than I did when I had a brick. My brick plan was $30 for talk/text only.

    1. Robin*

      I agree with this. I was definitely a late adopter on the smart phone front, and I am still mourning the loss of physical keyboards. I don’t like writing more than a few words on touchscreen keyboard. But I am now attached at the hip to my phone, for the reasons Dan said. I actually don’t respond much to emails on my phone, but now I know if there is something that requires my attention, so that I can get to my computer to respond to it in a timely way. And with plans like Ting, the cost is really not that bad.

      1. Robin*

        To the original question more specifically, is this the hill you want to die on? I think it is definitely worth having a more general conversation with your manager about boundaries and expectations, but it sounds like this really more of a perception issue than anything, and it may ultimately hold back your advancement. That doesn’t mean you can’t turn off your email on weekends or only check it once or twice a day or something, depending on the needs of the organization.

        1. Chinook*

          “That doesn’t mean you can’t turn off your email on weekends or only check it once or twice a day or something, depending on the needs of the organization.That doesn’t mean you can’t turn off your email on weekends or only check it once or twice a day or something, depending on the needs of the organization.”

          I can’t agree with this enough. I have been without a landline since 1999 and was an early adopter of a smartphone ever since they could access wifi (at that time – I had one option but I can’t remember what it was). I have never looked back as it allowed me to leave home and be not worry about missing calls or emails that I otherwise would have to wait for. But, at the same time, I won’t answer texts, emails or calls unless it is convinient for me or I am on-call. I adopted early on the attitude “if i had a landline, you wouldn’t expect to reach me at on a moment’s notice, so why should you now.” Instead, I check to see if it is urgent (parent calling during working hours or anyone after midnight – probably an emergency. Someone I have a meeting with emailing me, better read it to ensure meeting hasn’t changed). My phone is programmed to turn off notifers between certain times except for designated numbers (family only).

          I look at it as a tool just like fire – when used responsibly it can keep you warm and cook your food. When use willy-nilly, it can cause death andd destruction.

      2. Dan*

        The latest versions of Android have Swype built into the keyboard. It’s surprisingly accurate and useful. It takes awhile to get in the habit of using, but I can write more than I used to.

    2. TL - Rachel*

      Oh, I’m the opposite. I have a semi-smart phone and really, the only two things I use it for that are incredibly handy are 1) when I’m very, very lost and desperate enough to try to awful GPS system and 2) when I need to check ingredients for something at a restaurant – food allergies – or to see if a place has a gluten-free menu.
      Other than that, I just surf the web and check my personal email when I’ve got those awkward 5-minute blocks in my life. There are a couple of times when it’s come in super handy but I’m not terribly inconvenienced if I forget it or my phone dies.

      1. tt*

        I’m with TL. For the most part, I don’t miss my phone when the battery occasionally dies or I forget it at home. If I miss a call or text, oh well. And I’ll check my email when I get home. The biggest impact is I’m bored on the train cause I can’t play Candy Crush or Bubble Witch…

        And ditto on the GPS thing!

      2. Observer*

        Get a decent phone, and you will probably find the mapping to be really, really useful then.

        I’m also beginning to find Google Now to be surprisingly useful, although not extremely so.

  13. Chocolate Teapot*

    If the company wants me to use a mobile phone, then they can pay for it.

    As I had to make calls outside of the office, I requested a mobile phone and ended up getting a Blackberry. One I had perfected my key pecking technique, I found it quite useful.

  14. gg*

    I finally switched to a smartphone about a year and a half ago. I’m with Virgin Mobile, and it’s $40 monthly. I have been loving it! I still only really use it for email, phone and text, but it’s been really useful. I disconnect the work e-mail when I’m not working, but leave it on for work trips, etc. etc. I haven’t gone app crazy, but found that connecting my work calendar to my phone has been awesome.

    Still have my landline though. :-)

  15. ThomasT*

    I agree that you need to get clarity on what the business requirement actually is here. But once you’ve done that, there are ways that you can use your existing phone to be more available without having a smartphone, AND without placing the burden on coworkers and clients to reach out to you by text or phone rather than email. This works best if you have or are willing to get unlimited texting. A combination of filtering rules on your work email and the free If This Then That service ( would allow you, for instance, to receive a text every time you get an email with an Urgent flag, or from a specific person. You can create additional IFTTT rules to activate and deactivate the forwarding rule based on, say business hours, or an email that you’d send to turn it on or off. Then you’d get a snippet of the email by text, and could decide whether you need to get to a computer to respond. Actually, you don’t even need to use IFTTT, as you could set up a forwarding filter rule to forward the message via your carrier’s SMS gateway (, though you might not be able to automate turning the rule on/off based on business hours.

  16. Jenny*

    I’ve had to have blackberries or smart phones at my past three jobs but in all of those cases, they’ve paid for the bills. If you have a smart phone for work (which sadly is increasingly necessary in media fields) you need to have them pay for it.

    I work in PR, I have an iPhone and work pays my bills. I access my e-mail on it and I also am able to tweet/Instagram and post to the corporate facebook account from it. My colleague has an outdated phone, refuses to get a new one and all of that social media stuff falls on me which is really annoying. For example, I have to go into work this weekend and capture a few things for social media and she does not have to because her phone is old.

    So that’s another thing to think about – what tasks are falling on other co-workers because of the outdated technology? If none, that’s fine. But if your boss e-mails two people saying “I need X, Y and Z sent to me ASAP” and you don’t get the e-mail, the other person who does is going to be increasingly annoyed that they’re the one who’s on 24/hour call and you are not.

    1. Joey*

      This is the big reason I do it. If you don’t you’ll be at a disadvantage. You can very well write about social media experience on your résumé while your colleague can’t.

      And to the ops scenario do you want to be the person that has less responsibilities than your colleagues?

    2. Maddy*

      That last part is where I see the impact of this the most. I have three direct reports and when something urgent comes up I really like the convenience of being able to email all three at the same time so we can all be in the same conversation. It ends up taking less time than emailing two people and calling the third (who likely wouldn’t be at her landline anyways) and helps keep everybody in the loop as things develop. But then, I’m also in a field where putting in a little time working remotely on the weekends is totally normal and part of the job.

      I’ve had one or two employees in the past who weren’t on smartphones, and while I felt bad about it, the people who had email on their phones usually ended up having to pick up those last minute tasks just because they were the only ones I could get a hold of.

      I should make clear, I’m talking about exempt supervisors, not entry level staff who aren’t paid enough to keep themselves available in their free time.

  17. the_scientist*

    Everyone mentioning that smart phone plans *really* don’t cost that much more is assuming the OP is from the U.S. She might be, but if she is writing from Canada, just a quick note that we have ~fewer than half the phone carrier options available to our American counterparts, and phone plans are generally significantly more expensive here. Our options are slowly improving (Wind, PC mobile, mobilicity, etc), but the big phone providers routinely get the courts involved to block smaller providers from offering competitive plans.

    1. Elizabeth*

      I was just going to mention this. The plans mentioned in this post are heavenly compared to what’s available to us in terms of options, let alone in price!

      1. the_scientist*

        I was so, so sad when I moved to a city that wasn’t covered by Wind for grad school. I had their “holiday miracle” plan- it was like $35/mo for unlimited nation-wide calling and texting, unlimited data, and VM/caller ID/call forwarding which is virtually unheard of! I mean, their coverage area was terrible, but for that price I’d suck it up. Because I was a poor grad student, I got a student plan that didn’t include data, but the weekend after I defended my master’s thesis I treated myself to an iPhone and I LOVE it.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          I actually moved out of a Wind-covered city for grad school just as it was taking off, and I still don’t live in a Wind-supported place, and I have heard really good things about the price! Instead we’re stuck with Rogers (the monster) and just listen to the stories of city folk!

    2. Chinook*

      I am another Canuck currently green with envy at these American plans. I pay $70/month for a basic data/phone plan that I never max out and can’t go to some of the cheaper companies (like Wind) because I need coverage in areas where my family lives and while driving to visit them. Atleast I am on month-to-month now and own my phone outright, so I can choose to move when I see a deal I want.

    3. Lizabeth*

      Don’t forget about all the “FEES” and taxes tacked onto that $35 a month plan. I swear I’m paying about $10-12 for just fees and taxes. It totally sucks.

      Fortunately I don’t have to be plugged in for work so there’s one smart phone in the family and one dumb one (mine – no data, no text, just phone) and we’re still not using all the data or minutes and it’s the lowest for both.

    4. Loose Seal*

      Even in the U.S., you’re only able to choose from carriers that have reasonable coverage in your area. I’d love to be able to take advantage of Sprint or Tmobile but here, it’s either AT&T or Verizon and the prices that go with it. Even Wal-mart’s TracFone isn’t terribly reliable here.

      1. Observer*

        True. But, you don’t need to go near $100 a month for a basic data plan, even from Verizon. I checked earlier today, and they actually have a $45 per month prepaid plan that has unlimited talk and text and 500mb Data. And PagePlus might just work for you as well, as they apparently use the Verizon network. ATT has some slightly better deals, and again, you might be able to go with “The new Cricket” (which is apparently the name being used by the merged AiO, ATT’s “value brand”, and and Cricket) or H2O, which I understand uses the ATT network.

        And, T-Mobile has apparently upgraded their network extensively in the last year, so it’s worth checking them out, as well.

        So, even if the OP is not int best area, there is a really good chance that they don’t need to pay ridiculous amounts for a basic, useful, plan.

        1. Loose Seal*

          Yeah, I actually have that $45 per month plan. Except that it actually comes out to around $64 when the bill comes what with taxes and all, which is twice what OP is paying now and, possibly, too much to take on, depending on their budget.

          1. Observer*

            Yes, we don’t know the OP’s budget, so we can’t say what’s affordable. What we do know, though, is that $65 is a lot less than $100 for a monthly bill. The point is not that OP can afford the plan, since we don’t know that, but that the cost doesn’t have to be outrageous.

  18. ExceptionToTheRule*

    OP, are you exempt? Because if you’re not, you need to make sure your company is going to pay you for the time you spend checking your email when you aren’t at work.

    1. Hlyssande*

      This too! You also want to clarify whether or not you’re actually on call. If you’re not exempt and they expect you to be on call, you have to get paid for those on call hours.

    2. OP*

      I am not exempt, but I know for a fact that my colleagues aren’t getting paid for the time they check their smart phones outside of work.

      1. BRR*

        Your company is violating the law by not paying your colleagues (count this towards the number of things here that are actually illegal, I believe we are up to 3 now). Just some food for thought.

        1. Joey*

          Depends. DOL doesn’t usually do anything about really infrequent calls/emails that only take a minute or two to respond to.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            Those minute or two issues can really add up. I spend about fifteen minutes a day on inconsequential minute or two issues before I ever get to work in the afternoon. My agreement with my supervisor is that I will handle those things and they will pay me for the time. 15 minutes a day is 1.25 hours of overtime per week or 60+ hours over the course of a year, which works out to about $2500/year. A minute or two at a time.

      2. Loose Seal*

        When you go back to your manager to talk about email access, ask how she would like you to log and record the time you spend emailing/texting for work after hours and on weekends. That may be enough to get her to drop this requirement.

  19. voproductions*

    A company has to provide you with a phone or pay for your one if they want to talk to you outside of working hours, there are no exceptions to this, only people caving under pressure to provide there own phone.

    1. The+IT+Manager*

      only people caving under pressure to provide there own phone

      Not true. Some people prefer to be constantly connected or prefer to have their work communications tied to their personal phone so that do not have to carry two devices (one personal, one work) around.

    2. sam*

      it’s all well and good to say something like this, but without an actual legal cite to back it up, I’m afraid it’s just not the case. Companies have been moving towards mandatory BYOD policies for a number of years. Some subsidize plans, some don’t. Almost none pay the cost of the device. It’s possible that some states (California?) have sought to put limits on companies ability to force employees to purchase their own devices, but that’s not a blanket ban by any means.

      There are certainly restrictions on a company’s ability to require you to respond to calls, emails, etc. if you’re a non-exempt employee while off the clock, but they can certainly make owning a smartphone a condition of employment in most places. Think of it just like having to own a car if you need to drive for your job. Some companies reimburse for gas/mileage/etc. while traveling between locations, others don’t and just expect you to deduct the business expenses from your taxes. But you can’t actually do that job without the car. And that holds just as true for the minimum-wage earning teenager delivering pizzas as for the pharmaceutical sales rep.

  20. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

    She said she’d talk to corporate about getting the phone plan paid for, but she said it would probably be difficult, since I am still fairly entry-level and “if we get yours paid for, other employees will wish for theirs to be paid for as well.”

    I know we all have our hot button issues and this is one of mine. Well, yes OP’s manager, if you want them to have smart phones for your business related purposes then you should be paying for the phones and the plan. Period.

    I cannot even tell you how much this irritates me.

    This is not the same as providing your cell number to work in case of emergencies if rare. I have people I’ve called maybe 2 x in 6 years because of a snow closing. But if you need people to have cell phones so the business benefits then you pay for them. If you need them to have smart phones so they have access to email (and let’s not kid ourselves, that usually comes with the strong expectation of checking regularly) then you pay for it and in addition you can re-evaluate their salary if you’re continually needing something from them on their off hours. People’s time is valuable and if you want it pay for it.

    I’m assuming OP is exempt, because if not how are they tracking all the time they need to pay her for when checking email? Because you do, which is why non-exempt people will never web access to email (much less on phone) from me. Because if they are going to work they are going to get paid and tracking 5 minute increments is a pain in the ass.

    Do they expect you to show up with your own desktop and monitors? If they want you to have a specific work tool they can pay for that specific work tool.

    And this is not just because I think BYOD is a bad idea – it’s because the concept of businesses pushing a recurring expense onto employees is absolutely unconscionable.

    And the couple times in my career when I’ve okayed people using their own devices because THEY wanted work email for themselves, and not required by the business, I still had it in the user policy they sign that if they went over their data plan because of work related reasons they would submit for reimbursement.

    If I bought half and half for coffee and didn’t get reimbursed from petty cash my boss would be furious I went out of pocket for business supplies. Heck, when I bought a dock because I’d missed a work text in the middle of the night (regular phone ring can wake me when I’m out cold) she was mad I paid for it myself and reimbursed me the $130 or whatever it was. Because it had a work related purpose and I shouldn’t have additional expenses in order to do my job. Ditto the bluetooth in my car. That’s uncommon – but it’s illustrative of the mindset of a company that goes out of it’s way to make sure people aren’t out money for their gain.

    If your employees need smartphones you need to pay for smartphones.

    Now, since the OP is more entry level she may not be as comfortable going into tptb and asking them wtf as I am – so I’d advise if they insist on it but won’t pay the plan directly ask for a raise for the exact amount you will be incurring above and beyond your basic plan you already had. This way they aren’t slippery sloping for other employees and raises aren’t usually broadcast – and they will understand they need to at least not create a financial strain for you.

    If I ever run for president of the world a key part of my platform would be businesses will understand that they aren’t entitled to operating expenses, however small, out of their employees paychecks.

      1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        Was that a conversation that was had upon hire? If the salary was to incorporate this added monthly expense then then the expectation to have a particular phone and what the plan should accommodate is information they should have had coming in.

        Otherwise if it’s just “well we pay you enough you should be able to afford a smart phone and plan” that’s bullshit. I make enough to afford a lot of things I can’t because I am paying tuition for 3 kids in college…which most people don’t know because I don’t talk about my personal finances at work. No employers knows what bills they have or what else is going on.

        1. Kelly L.*

          +1. Once your employer gives you your pay, they don’t get to spend it for you, unless something has been agreed to beforehand.

        2. Chinook*

          I agree 100%. Added to this is the fact that OP can prove that this is a business expense and not a perk she is hoping to get because she is perfectly happy with her regular phone and it is the boss who is insisting on it. If she was told when she was hired that she will require a smartphone, then they maybe could argue it is built into her salary (the same way a suit is) but they are changing the conditions of her employment by requiring her to be available after hours to regularly check emails AND purchase a key piece of equipment. To me, that opens the door to negotiating a change in salary to meet the change in expectations.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            Yes, and I don’t think we’re there that most entry level jobs where it would be assumed a smart phone is required, the way of course buisness appropriate attire or transportation to and from work is. It’s not universal in the vast majority of positions.

            Consultants – for sure. I don’t want an IT consultant without one because they need to be able to get email, screenshots, etc. And it will be mandatory for many IT positions but that’s why it would be part of negotiations upon hire. I’d ask if they wanted to pay my plan, or if they were going to give me a company phone.

          2. OP*

            But is it worth trying to negotiate salary over such a small increment per month? I’d rather spend time negotiating salary over my merits.

      2. Meg*

        Is it in writing that the salary includes cost of operation of a smartphone for business use? Usually salary is your wage, and it would be mentioned as part of the total compensation package. Otherwise, the company doesn’t get to dictate how I spend my paycheck.

    1. AVP*

      Thank you for this rant.

      I can accept BYOD at my company because it’s just always been that way and it’s not a hill I want to die on. However, our CEO recently floated the idea of getting rid of landlines at our desks (except for the one main switchboard phone that the receptionist answers) and everyone just using our cell phones for all work calls. Including regular hour+ conference calls. He seemed shocked when I pointed out that none of our entry-level staff was going to be happy about increasing their phone plans to accommodate this business need. He hasn’t brought it up again but I’m just waiting for it…

      1. Stephanie*

        Actually, I interviewed at a big tech company where the employees just used their personal cells. Both interviews I did were via either the employee’s personal cells (as one guy had an out-of-area number) or maybe a Google Voice. Unsure if subsidies were offered, but it was definitely one of those “fun” offices where you were expected to be on-call constantly.

      2. Perpetua*

        We have this setup (no landlines, just one phone at the reception), but it works for us since we communicate over Skype internally and have no conference calls. Also, about a third of us have company-provided (and paid for) iPhones and the ones who don’t have no need for it. That does mean I have to carry two smartphones, but it’s a minor annoyance in comparison with other possible solutions.

        1. AVP*

          Interesting! I would mind this less if a) it was paid for, b) we didn’t have to use them all the time, and c) our office wasn’t in an AT&T dead zone.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            I swear last one and I’ll stop. ATT deadzone veteran – ATT micro-cell boosters. They provided them free due to my complaints about the office being a deadzone (not totally dead, pockets of dead, and what signals weren’t dead were on life support.)

            Tell them you need them to provide the boosters and the monthly charge for free since it’s their service which is causing the problem. Don’t ask – just tell them you expect them to waive this. It really saves time arguing as long as you’re super nice about it.

            If you’re in an area with availability for this check it out because we can skype, facetime – all that now with no issue (except the part of my office which is like a Faraday cage so i leave my phone there when i don’t want to hear it.)

    2. Mints*

      I’m just curious, and hoping Jamie will know:
      For the very occasional email, I’ll check my work email (Outlook) on my phone browser or home computer browser. Does that work the same as BlackBerry? Outlook is a software at work, but just a site on my phone/laptop. BBs are supposed to be business-y and I’m wondering if it works the same.
      (Also, the browser email times out pretty quickly, so there isn’t anything saved on the phone/laptop)

      1. sam*

        it depends on your office setup – my company blocks the outlook web browser option. we can only check email via the Good for Enterprise app on our (yes) BYOD smartphones or by bringing our work-provided laptops home with us. We have fairly strict security standards in place and cannot access any company resources on a non-approved device.

        1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          Good point that security will be different place to place.

          I don’t mind webbased – but ability to access is not the default, so only those specifically allowed can check mail – and you need to install a cert before you can check so you can’t use just any computer – has to be one which I’ve given you a cert to install so with few exceptions it will be a work issued laptop.

        2. Mints*

          I’m actually kind of surprised they haven’t done this at my job, now that I’m reading this. I could leave my phone without password protection, and all the passwords on Chrome to autofill, and leave it on the bus.

      2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        Checking on a browser will be the same whether it’s your phone, a blackberry, tablet, computer, whatever…it’s web-based so you’re just going to the site and logging in with credentials so the device is irrelevant.

        (fun fact – if you have trouble accessing OWA (outlook web app) or RWW (Remote Web Workplace) from a browser try it in IE. Other browsers can be wonky but you don’t always get an error message – just click stuff and nothing happens. Always use IE for Microsoft stuff as it plays better in it’s own milleau.)

        But you can pull email into a Blackberry from Exchange (although the old blackberries used to be pissy with Exchange 2007 and prior depending on the settings, but that’s an IT headache, not yours) so your work email pulls directly into the phone email app. Ditto for any other phone. That makes it easier to pull up and read than web based – but it will look different than outlook. But if you delete or read or whatever then whatever you do on your phone syncs with outlook. Is that what you were asking?

        1. Mints*

          Yes, thanks! I know Outlook is a special beast because it’s a software with local files, etc. But I never had the app and didn’t know how it worked when it’s “on” your phone (which I really really want to avoid)

  21. Lurker*

    I completely understand. Up until about 18 months ago I still had a flip phone with no internet or texting plan! It cost me 50¢/text to send a text so I never did. (I could receive up to 50 incoming texts/month free of charge.)

    My cell phone plan was about $50/month after taxes and I really didn’t want to ‘upgrade’ to a smart phone because I knew my phone bill would likely double – not to mention the cost of buying the phone! However, I found out through my carrier (TMobile) that if I brought in a used smart phone, I could add data and texting for about $5/month. I bought a used Blackberry for $25 and took it to TMobile. They changed my plan and now I have unlimited texting and the lowest data plan and my cell phone bill only increased $10/month (taxes included).

    Luckily my company does not expect me to be on call 24/7 but I have to say that it’s very convenient to be able to text or check email if I need to while I’m out/working offsite at an event. Perhaps you could see if your carrier offers a similar option?

  22. Zahra*

    Another point, if you’re non-exempt, make sure you are paid for any work done outside regular business hours. Do mention the fact to your manager that increased availability will mean increased hours/pay.

  23. Adam*

    People are strange about their phones these days. A friend of mine was freaking out last week because her phone fell in a glass of water…which she had rested the phone directly on top of while she was baking…

    She proceeded to go nuts worrying about people not being able to contact her even though her computer was sitting right there and presumably had all her information stored on it. I’ll admit I’m a bit more reliant on my smart phone than I should be out of shear personal laziness (I can’t remember phone numbers to save my life), but I just don’t get the panic mode response over the thing.

    1. Chinook*

      I will never understand why people freak out abotu losing data when they wreck their phones. I would think that something that important should be synced regularly to another device or cloud and/or backed up. As well, most phones allow for data to be wiped after so many wrong passwords or remotely if stolen. Plus, phones are now single whatever with no moving parts and a wet phone can be stored in a bag of rice for a few days to dry out long enough to retrieve data. Panic truly never shoudl ensue when it comes to a device.

      1. Adam*

        Oh man it was hilarious. The day after her phone took the plunge she came over to my place for our group’s weekly game night and when describing the incident she became frantic bordering on hysterics over the thought of losing her phone…even though her phone had proved to pretty much be just fine. I ended up laughing so hard I almost got lightheaded (she recognized she was being absurd; she just couldn’t help it).

        1. Windchime*

          Some people are truly addicted to their smart phones. I have several friends who keep theirs out all the time and are constantly checking them, even when we go out to dinner. The message? “You are not nearly as important as this text from my drunk neighbor” .

          Seriously. Sometimes I forget to turn on my ringer until lunchtime. I guess I just don’t understand the urgency and the addiction. It’s annoying to me. One of my friends complains about being awakened by texts in the middle of the night (from the drunk neighbor). When I suggest that she turn off her sounds at night, she is horrified.

    2. Mints*

      I’d like to high five myself on buying a water proof phone. Seriously, it’s so convenient, and highly recommend it to everyone who counts on their phone

      (When my phones have died in the past, I feel the panic, but usually try to stifle it and don’t seem outwardly hysterical)

    3. Tinker*

      Story time:

      When I was looking for jobs in Denver, I lived a few hours’ drive away and was driving up periodically for interviews. For what turned out to be my successful interview, I drove up on a day where the Weather Channel was apparently making lots of noise about SNOWPOCALYPSE NOW and met a friend for coffee after the interview. Coffee kind of shaded into hanging out watching anime, and it was somewhat late at night when my friend’s phone rang. It was my mother. She had not previously had his number. It turns out that I had forgotten about the SNOWPOCALYPSE thing since it turned out in actuality to be two snow flakes, and I’d pocket-hit the button to silence the ringer on my phone. She had called me seventeen times and then started calling all my friends, my former roommates, my ex, and my ex’s parents to eventually get ahold of another person in my social circle who had my friend’s number. She was planning on calling the police next.

      Granted that this would have been her problem instead of mine, logically speaking, and the thing to do at that time was to resolve the pattern of behavior of which this was a part (which did eventually happen). However, I am not a perfect person with broccoli around my neck and all, and at that time I developed a bit of a Thing about my phone — I broke it a couple months after that event and was somewhat panicked to get a new one first thing next morning lest another Incident occur, and I still have a flinch reaction to certain ringtones of that era.

      Obviously this is a bit of an unusual thing — that particular event was unusual even in context — but it’s not all that uncommon for folks to have people in their lives who pressure them to remain available or pay the price in some way. Or at least, it doesn’t seem like an uncommon experience.

      1. Adam*

        Makes sense. My friend has often lamented the fact that her mother (who she lives with) will get in these moods where she will call her constantly and make the rounds if she doesn’t get a response in what she considers a reasonable time (which is no time at all). She didn’t seem all that worried about her mother’s lack of contact then though…

  24. SJP*

    Now really useful but my God am I glad to work for a company that doesn’t require me to be available 24/7 and actually respects that my down time is exactly that, down time. That we use to recharge and relax.. We spend a massive chunk a day at work, it’s so nice to be able to switch off when I walk out the door.
    To OP, I am so sorry this awkward situation is happening to you..

  25. hildi*

    I have to go train in a little bit so didn’t read any of the comments. Sorry if this is way off base or already talked about:

    If you do end up having to get a smartphone and are open to suggestions: I suggest Republic Wireless. Your first paragraph coudl have been me: I had the old style phone for forever, mostly because I absolutely refuse to pay so much for data service. Enter RW. I now have a smartphone with unlimited data on a wi-fi network and my plan for texting & calling is only $10 a month. I love it. Highly recommend if you end up losing the battle on this one with your employer.

  26. Lance*

    Part of me almost wonders if this has to do more with “technology sympathy” than an actual work need. As an 29-year old who doesn’t own a smartphone, I get this a lot from everyone. They think I “need” a smartphone because they all have one. I’ve had a smartphone before and I relish not having to deal with the constant interruption. I also like having a much cheaper cell phone bill.

    In this instance, I’d push back hard against the company. If it’s something they feel I need, then they need to supply it. But I’m very curious if it’s just a group effort to “help” the person get a smartphone.

    1. Loose Seal*

      If this is really the boss thinking OP needs a smartphone out of “technology sympathy” (great term, by the way), then I don’t see that OP’s boss is much different from the boss that wanted her employee to drink so badly that she physically placed a drink in her hand. In other words, just because it works for a boss doesn’t mean that it’s needed or wanted by the employees.

    2. Ano*

      I love the term technology sympathy!

      However, if the OP deals with media or advertising and is ever in meetings with clients, the sight of a “dumb” phone might be the sort of thing that does not inspire confidence in your company. The OP’s work may not require a smartphone or 24/7 accessibility, but it may be important for appearances’ sake, just like keeping up to date, high quality technology and furniture in spaces used to meet with clients.

  27. Episkey*

    Not exactly the same thing, but my boss expects me to have a smartphone, which I do and had before I started working for her (an iPhone). However, she tends to call me while I’m driving in my car and doesn’t really think too much about it because she has a fancy Lexus with built-in GPS/calling/etc. But I don’t. We now have a law in my state that cell phone usage in the car has to be hands-free. So she bought me a Bluetooth. Because I would have been perfectly fine to not answer my phone while I’m driving, but she wants to be able to get ahold of me and I don’t want to get a ticket!

    I think that’s reasonable. I would have been a little put out if she expected me to spend $60-$70 out of pocket to buy myself a Bluetooth since I would not have done so otherwise.

  28. Steve*

    I would have a problem if in 2014 – an employee didn’t have a smart phone. In 2010, ok, butin 2014. The phones themselves aren’t very exspensive. Plans can be expsensive, but with sites like Ting where you only pay for what you use, they can be real life savers in case of an emergency.

    The real question for this guy is, if you needed a map or to look something up one time a month, would you be willing to spend money on that one time. If the answer is yes, I think he should take the old iPhone – use it with mainly wifi – and if it’s sprint – he can use Ting. Problem solved.

  29. My two cents...*

    If work expects me to be able/willing to do work-stuff without my office, then they’re expected to supply the means.

    In fact, when I connected my new work phone to the company email and server, I received an ominous-but-honest message that the company had the access and rights to remotely wipe my phone at any time, and the same goes for my company-supplies laptop. It’s their property after all! But, I’ll be damned if I’m going to open up MY PROPERTY to the same expectations of non-privacy by connecting to our company’s email and server. In turn, I don’t add Facebook or other personal apps to the work phone.

    Maybe it was an easier proverbial bullet for the company to bite, understanding that a female employee may not feel comfortable offering her personal phone number to possibly-lech-y customers.

    1. OP*

      I don’t have personal client contact (it’s filtered through my managers) but I didn’t even think about that aspect of things.

      And contradicting the sentence above, my colleague (same position as me, who often insists that I need a smart phone) told me that I need a cell phone because clients will email him directly for a request, instead of going through our manager, which the client is technically allowed to do. As in, they email him directly to sneak around our manager. So he said he needs to get emails on his phone so when situations like that do arise, he can be like “hey manager, this client is reaching out to me for something at 9pm on Friday, and I think you should know about it before I act upon it.” But in my case, I would see that email on Monday, and the client would supposedly be irked that I didn’t respond sooner…yet they were the one who didn’t follow protocol of talking to my manager about the issue first. I know, clients are always in the right, but if something like this happened, I would hope our manager would be like “well i was unaware of the situation so we weren’t able to address it in that short of notice”

      1. My two cents...*

        I’m the one in our remote office (of a huuuuge company) that handles most of the incoming support requests for our team’s products.

        For most cases, email is just fine and the customers understand that we operate within a normal work week (M-F 8-5). However, there have been times where a customer is in the thick of a particular issue when I’m out of the office. But, after some interesting run-ins with creepy customers/coworkers during tradeshows/conferences, I absolutely will not hand out my personal number to people I do not personally know and trust.

        If your manager is responsible for handling all incoming supports, then you have even MORE reason to push back about ‘needing’ a work cell phone. If it’s an important after hours email/issue, then why couldn’t they alert you to it? (which sounds like it might be your current arrangement?) If it isn’t hot enough to warrant the additional after-hours notification text, then it can (presumably) wait til Monday.

        This is actually the standard protocol between my manager and I when I’m out sick or on vacation…even WITH a company-supplied ‘work phone’. If there’s something red red hot that comes in, she’ll just shoot a quick text to my personal cell.

  30. John*

    I don’t think this is a battle worth waging. Your manager has effectively told you that the cultural expectation is that you be more reachable off-hours, and lots of people these days don’t want to have to try to call someone to get a response (lots of younger workers don’t leave voice mails and expect email or IM to be the primary means of communication).

    Certainly, I would probe more around what the expectations are. But I’d be careful about saying you aren’t available on weekends, for example. In some work cultures, this is not acceptable. In your shoes, I’d try to determine what they expect and work out (for myself) a balance between my needs and theirs.

    1. Mike C.*

      I don’t believe that forcing an employee to pay for a reoccurring business expense is an acceptable “cultural norm”.

    2. OP*

      You a right, this is a job where my colleagues have been reprimanded for not being available on a weekend, because they all had plans. The managers’ basically said “well, you didn’t say that you weren’t available that weekend/you didn’t request that weekend off” even though it’s a typical 40 hour, 9-5 mon-fri office job.

      1. Mike C.*

        That’s such a load of crap from your manager. Do you need to block off every single hour in advance that you don’t plan on working, because the assumption is that you would be otherwise?

  31. Relosa*

    I was in a slightly similar position when I started at my current job as a manager. There wasn’t direct pressure to get a smartphone but people often voiced annoyances about it. The fact is though just like you I was responsive to emergencies and prompt to return calls, or anything what have you. I just couldn’t justify the cost. Not to mention, I am not salaried.

    I did finally upgrade to a smartphone about six months ago, but this was entirely due to my decision to have one for my personal reasons. With two jobs, no days off, increased responsibility at work, and juggling a social life, I decided it was time for one, and so I bought one. Interestingly enough, the moment I got a smartphone, my bosses stopped expecting me to be available 24/7. Maybe it’s just the knowledge that they can get in touch with me more easily if needed, I don’t know. I recently had to have my phone replaced because of water damage and some weird software bug won’t let me install my work email, so I didn’t bother. I don’t work weekends at my job anymore, which is our busiest time. Interestingly enough, I only had to mention it to my GM one time – “I can’t reconnect my work email to the replaced device and I am not in a huge rush to do so, because I need my days off here for life and my other job.”

    He agreed, and we all know I’m on call by phone or text in an emergency, because there’s nothing that goes on over the weekend that would be important enough to handle via email anyway. I can access my work email through the browser on my phone if absolutely necessary in the event I can’t get to a computer, and all is well. It’s worked out – I set the boundary and my organization respects it. I do the same for them as well.

  32. Otter box*

    If I were in your situation, I think I’d find a hand me down smartphone and put it on a low-cost prepaid plan as a second phone. For example, AT&T offers a $25/month plan that includes 250 minutes of calling and unlimited texting. No internet required, even with a smartphone. Other carriers probably have even lower-cost options. You can still access internet anytime you’re connected to WiFi, so at home and work you should still be able to receive emails and be reachable in an emergency. Your boss should be happy to see you have a smartphone, and as long as you make sure you’re checking email and work communications as frequently as they want you to, she’ll never need to know you don’t actually have a data plan.

  33. CAA*

    If you’re in California, google “colin cochran v. schwan’s home service, inc.” for a recent court case on this very subject.

    “The threshold question in this case is this: Does an employer always have to reimburse an employee for the reasonable expense of the mandatory use of a personal cell phone, or is the reimbursement obligation limited to the situation in which the employee incurred an extra expense that he or she would not have otherwise incurred absent the job? The answer is that reimbursement is always required.”

    This is under CA Labor Code section 2802, which says a business must indemnify its employees against any expense assumed on the company’s behalf, so it doesn’t apply in any other state. Also, the court only requires a partial reimbursement, assuming the employee also gets personal benefit from having the cell phone. The percentages are not finalized, and I’m sure there’ll be more to come on this topic.

  34. Mallory*

    I have a similar problem, but in REVERSE. I work for a small company(15 employees, 3 including myself and President that are office bound). This is our our smart phone business works:
    The President carries an iPhone(does not have a personal cell), phone provided by company & entire bill paid for by company
    The Superintendent carries an iPhone(does not have a personal cell), phone provided by company & entire bill paid for by company
    Two foremen have personal phones, have monthly subsidy of $20 for their phone bills
    I carry my personal iPhone, no subsidy(and it’s never been offered/extended to/acknowledged when brought up)

    I am expected to forward all office calls to my phone when not in the office(during work hours, if I’m visiting a client or customer) and during my off work hours(afternoons, weekends, ect.). I also am expected to receive and answer all emails at any time, because(this is the BEST part) neither the President nor the Superintendent receive emails to their iPhone.
    Yes folks, they carry smart phones because of the impression that puts to the public, but DON’T ACTUALLY USE THE SMARTNESS.
    The President also doesn’t check email at home(like, does not have a personal computer) and he only checks emails in his office about 2 to 3 times per week.
    My boss actually had the gall to tell me the other day his fellow CEO buddies were impressed that he doesn’t get emails to his phone because “I have set the expectation that I do not respond to emails immediately” at which point I gently reminded him that because everyone knows he does not check his emails, they CC me so that they can get a response. He just nodded and said “Exactly!” *Smacks head against wall*
    In short, my boss’ lack of smart phone usage has added to my workload, both at work and at home.
    It should surprise no one the business is very close to making it’s final swirl in the toilet.

  35. GH in SoCAl*

    Lots of people have offered up good options for keeping the cost down if you decide to get the phone. And I have to say, if you’re interested in advancing, I think you probably should get it. It’s partially about availability, but I think it’s more about perception, and in this field it can have value to be perceived as up-to-date. I work in the TV business and I was a longtime holdout against touchscreens, I had the same a Motorola Razr fliphone from 2003 to 2011. I missed a few work-related social gatherings because of not getting an email in time, but it didn’t seem like a big deal. Then in 2010 I finally got an iPhone, and literally a month later I got a new job that was a huge promotion, a job that absolutely required my constant availability and would not have been do-able without the smartphone. Do I think the phone caused the promotion? No, a hundred elements went into that. But I think the old phone signalled that I was *not * looking and *not* prepared for the higher-level job. I think this falls under the “dressing for the job you want” rule. Sticking to outdated tech in a media job signals that you’re not looking to move up the ladder. Be sure that’s the signal you want to send.

  36. Graciosa*

    Another aspect of this may be purely cultural. I had a boss who originally ordered a phone for me many years ago with one of those little wired microphones you plug into the phone. It was perfectly standard at the time – but bluetooth wireless earpieces came out a few months later. The next time I came in to HQ, my boss took one look at my wire and said I could not walk around the office wearing that wire and had to order a wireless earpiece immediately (at company expense). This had nothing to do with functionality and everything to do with company culture and what my boss felt was the image the company was trying to present.

    If there is a vague sense of discomfort from your boss, it may be a sense that your phone represents a disconnect from her understanding of the company’s image or culture. I’m not saying this means you need to concede and buy a smart phone to make her feel better (I agree with all the comments that the company needs to pay for this as a business expense) but you might consider this as a possible reason if she can’t articulate why your current arrangement is a problem.

    If you do agree to get a smart phone, I think you may want to negotiate some boundaries on its use. For example, my company-paid smart phone is turned off while I’m sleeping. I don’t have the kind of a job that requires me to rescue someone from imminent danger to life or limb in the wee small hours, and I need my sleep to work effectively. My boss knows this.

    I don’t know what would be reasonable in your position, but think about it. For example, you could agree to check X often for emails that have “EMERGENCY” or “URGENT” in the subject line but make it clear you will not be reviewing and responding to any others – or whatever agreement you can reach with your boss.

    I understand the importance of preserving some part of your life away from work – I hope your boss does as well.

    Good luck.

    1. Mike C.*

      I think that’s way overboard. That “vague sense of discomfort” oftentimes is just something an unreasonable manager needs to “build a bridge and get over it”.

    2. OP*

      And not having a smart phone does understandably make me deal with email a bit differently at work. For example, if I am working late on an assignment at the office, and I think of something that I want to mention to a colleague but it is not urgent in any way (I just want to send it so they see it the next day), I will send it…and at times, that could be an email at 11pm. I would hate to be on the receiving end of such emails and being pinged thinking that it might be urgent, but then seeing it can wait until the next day. For me, I perceive email as the slowest form of communication, since a call or text would mark something as urgent for me.

      1. KellyK*

        That’s totally reasonable. Email is a horrible way to try to get a hold of someone immediately, unless it’s during their standard working hours.

        Maybe that’s something you should talk to your boss about—whether you get a smartphone or not, what are her expectations about email? Are you supposed to read it the minute it comes in, day or night? Are you supposed to check it once or twice on the weekend, or once or twice an *hour* on the weekend? Because even if you get a smartphone, that doesn’t mean you’re going to walk out of the movie theater on a Saturday afternoon to answer an email that just came in, or that you’ll sleep with the phone next to your ear so you can respond to something at 2 AM. I think it would be really useful to clarify her expectations about getting a hold of you, and then decide if those are expectations you can live with.

  37. Andrea*

    It’s an odd assumption we have that everyone needs to have a smartphone and have it with them all the time. I have a prepaid cell phone (that I got when I was job searching) that I use as a phone (and often leave at home). I also have a BB from work. People look at me like I am crazy for not having the latest iPhone, but honestly I have no need to be that connected or to pay $70+ a month for something I don’t use. I also have never had cable. I feel like the $1000+ a year I save can go toward travel. But, the comments and the shock are often there when I disclose this. Maybe that is part of the view of the OP–hopelessly out of touch with what everyone has.

    1. Observer*

      You are right that most people do not “need” to have their phones with them at all time, and most probably don’t “need” a smartphone altogether. What shocks people, probably, is not that you won’t pay for something that you don’t use, but that you cannot imagine using it AND that you are so convinced that you need to pay that much. As others have pointed out, that is often far from the case, at least in the US.

  38. Just Visiting*

    I regret getting a smartphone. I’ve never had to use it for work (and seriously, unless you’re an emergency worker then I call bullshit on needing employees to be “plugged into the loop” at all times… your job just isn’t that important, sorry), but having the Internet in my pocket at all times is a little crazy-making. Whenever my email dings, I check it, even if I’m in a park or out with friends or whatever. We go to restaurants and the first thing everyone does is lay out their smartphones on the table. Can’t eat a meal or drink a beer without logging it into an app. I take part in all this, and I can’t imagine NOT having a smartphone now, but are we really any better off living our lives publicly instead of in the moment? Should I really be spending time Googling information about a historical landmark instead of just enjoying it for what it is? Once you get it you probably won’t be able to live without it, so think hard before letting yourself be talked into getting one. Also, the battery life sucks.

    1. OP*

      I did end up researching it and found out I would need to pay $30 additional to my current bill in order to have data, and that is if I bring my own phone to my carrier. A concern that I have (which I mentioned in my post) is needing to replace the phone, or having it break. I asked that question at my carrier and they said a new phone, no contract, is, well, the price of an iPhone ($200-600). I can get a better deal, but that’s only if I sign up for a contract.

      So yes, if I do use the coworker-supplied phone and sign up to add data, it’s only $30 additional. But if that phone breaks (and these phones aren’t very durable, as I’ve seen from many friends/family/colleagues with cracked screens, broken LCDs etc) I would then incur a cost of $200 or more. And I’d hope that my company wouldn’t pull the “well you broke it, you buy it” excuse.

      1. Observer*

        Look into other carriers – you will almost certainly find something better. And, if you prefer to stay with your carrier, go back to them with information you have. Someone will probably find something better for you.

        As for phones, do yourself a favor and buy a decent case for it, as you will cut your chances of breakage WAY down. I have an otterbox. I’ll grant that it’s pricey for a case, but really protects a rather fragile phone quite well. But you don’t necessarily need to get the “best” case. Just be careful. My current phone is a couple of years old and still works fine.

        Lastly, if you do wind up having to replace your “new” phone, there are a number of reasonably priced options that you can buy on most carriers that don’t require you to sign up for a plan. If you are on a GSM carrier, the Moto G is $179 free and clear, no plan required. If you are on ATT you can get one of the GoPhones and then pop in your SIM, so you don’t have to sign up for a plan. You can get something in the $100 (or less if you are willing to go refurb.) If you have recent version of Android and use a case, no one needs to know that you didn’t get the latest and greatest, most expensive phone. And, some of them are even reasonably sturdy.

  39. Natalie*

    OP, if your boss pushes this and/or you decide it’s not worth your time or effort to fight, I have a suggestion for the philosophical issues – the “distraction free smartphone”. There’s a couple of articles online with more detail, but the gist is this guy deleted all the apps he could, decoupled his email from the email app, and used parental restrictions to disable apps he couldn’t delete, such as Safari. The end result is that he retains access to apps he finds useful (Uber, for example) but other than that the phone just gets phone calls and texts.

    For the email issue, it would still require you to get clarity from your boss about what she expects, of course. But then you can set up notifications, pushing, etc within those expectations.

  40. Liz*

    I know this will be buried, but one thing I haven’t seen mentioned re: requiring smartphones: Accessibility issues, especially for older employees. I’m slightly visually impaired, and while computer screens are fine (I just zoom a bit and/or sit a bit closer and everything’s peachy), I can’t really see text on anything smaller than a full-sized iPad screen. Smartphones are essentially unusable because they’re just too small. You can zoom on them but it makes navigating everything hell and causes a ton of eyestrain headaches. I can also see this being an issue for older employees whose eyesight is starting to deteriorate. I know I’d be pretty PO’ed if I was expected to pay a lot of money for something I couldn’t even use.

    1. Observer*

      Some of the newer phones might work reasonably well for you, as they actually have surprisingly functional voice “assistants” that will read to you and take dictation. It could be worth checking out.

      1. Liz*

        I prefer a flip-phone and a tablet, but I know about the accessibility options. I just think it’s ridiculous to force people with vision that otherwise presents little/no impairment to learn to use screen readers (which I do/have used including Voice Over and they are a pain in the ass compared to typing for email) and dictation software (which requires learning and pitching your voice accordingly; I had a job which was revoicing and it does take effort [not to mention, it does hear things incorrectly, and if you can’t see it making an incorrect word/typo, then you look unprofessional]). Quite frankly, it takes less time to check email on a laptop, so it amounts to ‘use this thing to look cool, but do your job less well’ which is just stupid.

        And it’s not an issue for a small amount of people. Although I (and the OP) are under 30 and it’s unusual to have vision issues, they are very common when people get older. I’m not blind (I used to be, so I know the differences); I have about 20/50 vision corrected and my lenses make things look smaller. Lots of older people have focusing or visual problems that might make reading small text difficult, but they do fine with normal sized screens/text. Forcing people who can use 10″+ screens to use 5″ ones to look cool is stupid.

        Or you can just hire people under 30 with 20/20 vision, I guess.

        1. Observer*

          Sure, insisting that people use a particular tool just for the “cool” factor is generally a bad idea. But, the OP wasn’t dealing with the same issue you are – he just doesn’t want to pay the cost he thinks he will incur and doesn’t like the idea. Even adjusting for the cost issue, these are perfectly legitimate issues, but in a totally different league than vision problems.

          I wasn’t talking about the desktop voice programs. I was actually shocked at how well Google Now translates what I say to it – and I think it can read back what you dictate. Certainly, when I tell it to do certain things it says “Doing x” which means I don’t have to look at the phone to see what the phone thinks I said.

          I suspect that the trend towards bigger higher res phones is due to the fact that more people over 30 are using them. And, no I don’t have close to 20/20 vision.

          1. Liz*

            It’s not the same issue, but the perception people without smart phones aren’t good as workers does effect us (same as the perception that women without makeup aren’t ‘professional’: I can’t wear eye makeup, but you can’t tell looking at me that that’s the case, so I’m just assumed to be dumpy and unprofessional). If I’m discounted as an employee because I don’t have a smart phone, that’s absolutely an issue for me, and it’s an attitude that’s defended a lot so I thought I’d present another side that doesn’t have to do with somebody with a personal preference.

            Voice cues to tell a phone to do something are very, very different from composing emails or work documents using that software. Consider things like names, acronyms, jargon, etc. Doable, but major learning curve for something unnecessary, particularly given professional standards of communication.

            The bigger phones are good, I might be able to use one of the ‘phablets’, but that’s iffy.

            As for 20/20 vision, don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m curious if you mean with or without correction? Because I’m talking about vision problems *with* correction. Lots of people have 20/20 with glasses/contacts on, but not everybody especially when presbyopia and things like that comes into play.

            1. Observer*

              I’m not at 20/20, even with my glasses, although it’s not too bad.

              More than one of the staff in our office is worse off than I am in that respect. The most surprising one, in terms of smart phone use, is the one with the worst vision who uses a blackberry. I’m thinking of a Moto X for him when he’s due for an upgrade, because at least that will read his texts and emails to him.

  41. Ashley*

    I agree you do not need a smartphone and simply having one would not necessarily increase connectivity. There are no notifications pushed to my smartphone. On purpose. I’m not a fan of constant interruption and would push back on this if it turns out to be the actual issue.

    That said, if you do decide to get one or this becomes a royal pain to get around, investigate Ting as your service provider. I pay less than $30/month for my smartphone “plan.” It’s pay-what-you-use and is on Sprint’s network. See if coworker’s phone is Sprint-compatible or score one cheap on Ebay. There’s no reason a phone plan should cost $100/month.

  42. hayling*

    OP: you’re young and you work at a media company. Not having a smart phone makes you look out of touch – both in the literal and figurative sense.

    1. A Lurker*

      I’m surprised this comment didn’t come up sooner! This was my first thought as well.

      I’m also under 30 and just upgraded to a smart phone. I think the best thing about it, honestly, is that people don’t comment on my dinosaur of a flip phone any more.

    2. PizzaSquared*

      This rings true to me. “Media” is very broad, but I’ve managed some people in what I’d consider a media organization, and while I don’t consider it a job requirement to have a smartphone, I would see it as somewhat of a red flag if someone didn’t have one. It’s like hiring a software engineer who doesn’t have a computer at home. I would never expect (or even allow, as discussed upthread) a software engineer to use her home computer for work. But by not having one, she would be sending the message that she isn’t interested in technology, which I think is an important attribute for a software engineer. Work is work and home is home; I am a huge believer in work/life balance. But I’ve managed enough people to also feel strongly that people who are interested in the field they’re working in tend to be better long-term employees. And little things like this can be a signal about how interested the person is. If “staying in touch” or up on social media or whatever is considered part of your field, signaling that you don’t care about it can be a career limiting move, no matter how unfair that may be…

    3. EmmBee*

      I was going to say the same thing.

      OP — if you were a nurse or a teacher or a librarian or someone who worked in a department that shut down at 5pm, I’d be on team OP. But you work in media. With that comes certain expectations, including about your interest in technology.

      I work in communications, so kind of similar, and there are ABSOLUTELY times when checking my email after hours (I’m not crazy about it, btw — I check once around 8pm and once again before bed, but that’s because I check my personal email at those times too) has revealed something crucial or urgent or even just nice-to-know.

      You say you’re under 30 and entry level — forgive me for prying or talking out of line, but if you’re on the upper end of your 20s and still entry level, perhaps this is a great way to signify that you’re ready for your next step, career-wise.

  43. Jake*

    When I was hired at my recent company I was given a company laptop and (dumb) cell phone. I work between 48 and 60 hours a week, Monday through Saturday, and I bring work home an average of about 10 hours a month. Recently, my company gave everybody in my position the option of having a company iPhone, or getting an extra $50 a month to use our personal smart phone for business purposes. When we received our new phones it included a letter saying that this upgrade was to ensure that we had better access to emails.

    I was very worried that having this stupid iPhone was going to result in me having to be either working, checking work stuff or thinking about work stuff all the time.

    Turns out, the only difference between my old habits and new habits is that instead of checking my work email on my company laptop 2 or 3 times during the day on my day off for 10 minutes each, I check my email 20 to 30 times for one minute each. I am far more plugged in, but I still spend the same amount of time working in my down time. I still put my phone in my bedroom and don’t look at it when I’m in the middle of something I don’t want to be interrupted by, I still work the same amount from home, I still do all the same things I was doing before, just this phone makes it easier to do at a glance when it is convenient instead of having to drag out my company laptop anytime I feel like checking emails.

    This could be the thought process of the boss, you don’t need to work more, just be quicker in your responses and a smartphone will make that easier. That being said, the company should either pay for 100% of your smartphone bill or give you a company phone, as it is not reasonable to shoulder you with this burden after the fact.

  44. Rachel*

    There have been plenty of good answers already but I just want to add – in media, as the OP notes, there are often tight deadlines. There are also often emergencies, breaking news, etc. It’s true for communications/marketing/etc as well. If you want to keep moving up in this field? You are going to need the smartphone eventually. At some point, it’ll stop being optional, even if it may be optional right now. And as long as you don’t have one, are your supervisors going to see you as someone they can promote into a role that does require one?

  45. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

    Worst-case scenario, an employee can contact me to let me know an important email chain from a client needs to be responded to.

    This is what really sticks out to me about this letter. If you want to get your manager on board with you not having a smartphone, you’re going to have to come up with a solution to her problem (whether or not it’s legitimate, she has a problem with you not having a smartphone) that doesn’t consist of shifting responsibility for checking your email onto your coworkers.

    1. LBK*

      I agree – I would find that annoying as a coworker. You’re already receiving a notification that you have an email: the email. I shouldn’t have to tell you about it as well.

    2. Mallory*

      I agree, this is what I have to do for my boss who checks his email 2-3 times per week. Hopefully someone CC’d me on the email they’re sending to him, but if they didn’t, then they call(upset/angry)and ask why they aren’t getting a response, at which point I usually have to request that they also send me that email so I can respond for him, or I go log onto his computer, read the email and then call and ask what he wants to respond with. It’s incredibly time consuming particularly since he rarely answers his phone on the first call.

  46. Julia*

    I think there’s also a perception issue at stake here. It may be that others are judging the OP on being ‘up to date’ with the world if they don’t have a smartphone. As a consultant, I have one because perception is vital. I like it and use it, but I’m not married to it.

    I do not get any reimbursement for it. It is expected that I can access email on it but like another poster said, it’s too much hassle. I tell people to text me if it’s urgent.

      1. Observer*

        To some extent, yes it will. The hand me down says “I’m up with technology, but I have a cost issues. When I have money, I’ll get a cooler phone.”

    1. Girasol*

      Where I work there’s a lot of non-work-related snickering over people who carry flip phones. Smart phones are almost a standard part of the professional dress code. Never mind that tech savvy young people like the OP choose flip phones intentionally; they’re a symbol if being old and out of touch. The post leaves me wondering if the message the OP should be hearing is not “You need a smart phone” or “You need to be more available” but “You need to fit in better with your fellow employees. Don’t be different.”

      1. Katja*

        I’m with Girasol above – there is a lot of non-work-related snickering about flip-phone carriers here too. Granted, I work for a large media company who is always in front of clients. We’ve even heard some snickering FROM CLIENTS about the person(s) with a flip phone, and that it doesn’t inspire confidence in our company. So that’s a real, legitimate worry of the company, that we be seen as forward thinking.

  47. Elsajeni*

    Since your manager brought up the idea that it might be a cost issue first, I wouldn’t worry too much about if she comes back and says that corporate won’t pay for the phone — it seems to me that your out there is to say, “In that case, I’m afraid I really can’t upgrade to a smartphone,” and turn the conversation back to her expectations for being able to reach you outside of work hours and how you can meet them with the technology you already have (for instance, do you have access to your work email from your home computer? if not, can that be set up? would that help?). I’d be more concerned about what will happen if they do agree to pay for it, and how you’ll manage expectations in that situation.

  48. Wilton Businessman*

    As someone who has carried a pager/phone/smartphone for the better part of 20 years, I can tell you that my work life and professional life will never mix. If the company wants me available 24×7, then they will provide the device. Plain and simple. If they want my personal number in case of emergency, by all means they can have it. But when contacting me any time of the day or night becomes part of my job, they are picking up the tab.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yes, but that’s what the personal phone is for. Heck, my bluetooth headset connects to both at the same time.

      2. Wilton Businessman*

        Personal calls – in an emergency. Definitely not casual conversation.
        Personal emails: Never. (In fact, the company makes it impossible to do so).

  49. Mister Pickle*

    This entire situation makes me shake with rage.

    OP’s company needs to pay for the smartphone and smartphone service. It’s that simple. Oh, is it going to be “difficult” to arrange? I’m sorry, boss – but I’m sure you’re up to the task.

    Does OP’s ‘old’ phone support incoming texts? Perhaps a ‘bridge’ solution could be found using something like IFTTT, where incoming emails could be scanned, and if they’re important enoough, a text message goes out to OP. OP gets a test and checks her email on her computer.

    Re people talking about BYOB and companies remote-wiping devices: I thought that most / all companies used some kind of containerized (and encrypted) remote management scheme for personal devices: all business data / apps reside in a partition separate from the user/owner’s personal data and apps.

    Finally – I may have missed this above, but if it’s an iPhone, perhaps OP can get away with using it Wifi-only, with no voice or data plan? It would only work at home or at Starbucks or anywhere that has free Wifi. But you don’t want to be reading email while your driving anyway …

  50. Peep!*

    Luckily for me, my line of work doesn’t require contact outside of work hours! But my friends have been badgering me for YEARS to get a smart phone (they all have iphones) but I just don’t feel the need. Sure, it would be a nice time-waster, and sometimes it could help me check traffic while on the go…

    – But I currently pay $40 including tax, and I’d have to pay about $100 a month for a smart phone.
    – I don’t need the maps. I guess I’m one of the few people who knows how to read and use a real paper map and I have a good sense of direction so I don’t need it to tell me exactly how to get somewhere. If I need something specific, I’ll google maps it beforehand just to see the route.
    – Same as OP, my phone has been alive since 2006 (my last year of college) and only recently has the battery wound down enough that I *gasp* have to charge it twice a week.

    I hate going out to see my friends (one on one or with a group) and then sitting alone nearly the entire time, twiddling my thumbs. I shouldn’t have to get a smart phone to entertain myself while everyone else is glued to their phones.

    Also, I have an ipod touch for podcasts and apps and Skype and stuff — it’s basically the smart phone minus the phone, I’m around wifi nearly 24/7, so it’s good enough for me.

    1. Observer*

      Will it really cost you $100 a month for a smart phone? If you are in the US, I highly doubt it.

      It’s your choice to get a smart phone or not. But, getting on your high horse and looking down your nose at people who actually find them useful is not an endearing trait. “Eh. I just don’t need it and I’d rather use the money on other things” might not get people off your back, but it won’t offend. “*I* don’t need a smart phone because I’m SMARTER than you, and I have skills that YOU obviously don’t.” *is* offensive. Guess what? Plenty of people who know how to read maps just fine, find the mapping features useful. Sure, if you don’t find it useful then you don’t, but don’t be condescending and don’t make assumptions about people.

      1. sam*

        Seriously. I know how to read a paper map too – I was in the girl scouts and everything, and backpacked and bicycled through the entirety of Europe back in the olden days before the internet was ubiquitous, much less smartphones, but I’m not walking around with a giant road atlas in my purse every time I want to meet a friend at some bar in Brooklyn that I’ve never been to before (and let me tell you, spoken turn-by-turn directions with headphones in and your phone in your pocket make it look like you’re just listening to music, rather than a lost tourist with a giant “rob me” target on your back!).

        (Plus, between my company’s 20% employee discount with AT&T and the partial reimbursment that they provide under the BYOD policy here, I only pay a grand total of $20/month for my iphone, so if we’re using Peep!’s metrics, does that make me the *bestest* person?)

        My brother was getting on his high horse on facebook the other day about materialism and the new iphone, posting articles about how “stuff” can’t fulfill us. I commented that I guess that means he doesn’t want my iphone 5 when I upgrade to the 6 and I’ll make arrangements to sell it instead (since he always gets my hand-me-downs). He backtracked right quick.

        1. Natalie*

          Transit stuff is one of my favorite smartphone features. Someone made an app for my city that will show me all the nearest buses, all the nearest car-sharing services (we have 3), and the local bike-sharing service with the number of bikes at the rack. It’s amazing.

        2. Observer*

          I’ve had enough changes of plan, or unexpected road issues, that being able to quickly map a new route is very nice. Especially if your mapping app does different types of transport. In NYC, Google maps does public transit, so I can find the rout I need for car, walking or public transport. I carry around enough extra junk “just in case” that I’m perfectly glad not to have a pair of paper maps as well. And no paper map is going to tell me about traffic and road conditions the way Waze does. (Since Google bought Waze, some of the Waze alerts get picked up by Google.)

      2. Tinker*

        I could rant for a bit on the various (tiresome) uses of “marker skills” to evaluate the intelligence of or score points on people, but that’s kind of redundant. One thing I’ll add to it, though — characteristics that make a skill good for this sort of point scoring is that it’s on the edge of obsolescence or otherwise not difficult to work around (so that there are sufficient non-skill-havers in the population to score points on) and yet is not challenging to learn or perform for most non-disabled people who have for whatever reason acquired it (so that one’s ego is not substantially at risk by the prospect of failure.

        Emphasis, as far as my point goes… non-disabled people. Because the same characteristic that makes this a good ego game also makes it a good game to catch and denigrate people who actually do have uneven abilities — folks who have real difficulties reading maps, or who have difficulties with handwriting (to name another item that is coming up, particularly given the Common Core standards regarding cursive, as a target) not just because it’s not an important skill to acquire for them but because they have cognitive weaknesses that make that task unusually difficult for them. So judging them by it isn’t a great reflection of their actual intellectual capacity or work ethic, and is kind of an asshole move.

        To kind of sum it up by analogy, most of the time the game here is to run up past people on the sidewalk who were drinking coffee and yelling back at them “I won the race!” when they weren’t running. That’s kind of silly. However, sometimes what it amounts to is challenging a person with a broken leg to a footrace, and then crowing about their inferiority when they lose — which is, among other things, mean. Particularly when, unlike broken legs, learning disabilities are not always visually obvious or universally recognized.

        It would really be a good idea for folks who do this sort of thing to work on not doing that anymore.

    2. Natalie*

      Your friends sound kind of rude and crappy. Every one I know owns a smartphone and they rarely do this. If someone wants to check something or gets a text they need to answer, they’ll say so.

      1. Windchime*

        You’ve got good friends. So do I, actually, but it’s really annoying to be eating a nice dinner out with a friend and have her be constantly checking her phone, responding to texts, etc. If I say something, she’ll say, “Sorry!”. But then two minutes later, she is checking again. What is so important?!? Facebook can wait!

  51. MLHD*

    I work with someone who was smartphone resistant as well, and it was definitely irritating trying to get ahold of her because she traveled between different sites during the day and half the time would not answer her phone OR check her emails. She got a smartphone and this has improved somewhat but it’s always annoying when you are already a busy person and have to try 3 different methods to reach someone.

    1. sam*

      if part of OP’s boss’s issue is that email is the “default” method of communication from boss, and boss needs to go out of her way to use other methods to reach OP (calling, texting), then OP will be seen as a problem. OP, you do not want to be seen as the “problem”. Individually, these may not seem like a big deal, but they are an annoyance. And as the subordinate in this working relationship, it is part of your job to reduce and / or eliminate annoyances to the people you work for, not create them.

      That being said, you should also make sure that your boss understands, very clearly, that as a non-exempt employee, you must be paid for any time you spend reading/responding to emails while out of the office. Boss can’t have it both ways.

      1. fposte*

        I definitely agree on the question of the office communication medium. My workplace is a really email-y culture, and a real no-downtime culture. I don’t have a smartphone, but I’m email available most of the day with laptop, etc., and it would really hurt me if I weren’t; if I traveled more, I’d break down and get a smartphone.

  52. Gene*

    Just to test the waters and see if it’s an image thing, or if you really need a smartphone to do your job, find a friend with an old smartphone in a drawer, buy a cheap case that fits it, and stick the uncharged, unactivated phone in it. Don’t say anything, just be sure it’s visible and keep on doing what you are currently doing; except don’t be seen using your old phone, get a bluetooth headset if you need to use your cellphone at work.

    If the comments stop, you have your answer – it’s not that you aren’t in adequate contact, it’s that you don’t fit the profile of who they want in that position, and that’s very useful information. If you continue to get comments that you “didn’t respond to X” in a timely manner, time to get a smartphone. Since you don’t need much in the way of data, go with the bottom plan you can get, probably prepaid.

  53. KDT*

    I’ve read through most of the replies and everyone is ignoring the obvious fact that it doesn’t cost that much to have a smart phone these days. You can get a decent Android smart phone for less than $100 – without a contract – and get a plan with unlimited talk text and data from either T-mobile or one of the MVNO’s like Cricket, Smart Talk, etc. If you don’t want to mix your main number with your “work” number get a free Google Voice account and give that out for people at work.

    1. fposte*

      I think people aren’t ignoring it–it’s just that that’s not really the issue. The OP has a system that currently works and costs her less than what you describe; she’s trying to find out if she has to let that system go to oblige her workplace or not.

    2. edmundo*

      I have a prepaid phone that costs me less than $6/month – no contract, no credit check, no monthly bill. Who exactly is gonna pay the additional money for the $100/month smart phone?

  54. Cheesecake*

    Maybe i missed something, but i am surprised by the AAA’s answer. If my company wants me to be available 24/7 by checking emails – then i should receive a smartphone and a data plan paid by the company! I would only put the philosophical arguments around “i don’t want to be a part of this” if i actually received a corporate blackberry but hate using smartphones.
    In all my previous companies eligible employees received the “communications package” and those who were not supposed to be in contact 24/7 but still volunteered to check emails on their private devices. This had some eyebrows raised raised and required to use 9 digit password for data protection. This is more for a corporate world, but still a valid reason NOT to install anything work-related on personal devices.

  55. TL17*

    Part of me wonders if the boss also got some feedback from a client or customer wondering why OP doesn’t have a smart phone. Not everyone needs or wants one, of course, but there might be some industries where it’s commonplace for everyne to have one. The boss might be reacting to something external that isn’t about connectivity at all, so much as it is about the appearance of keeping up with the times.

  56. Amy*

    I can relate to the OP. My company switched from company-issued Blackberries to the “Good” app for personal smartphones a couple of years ago. I don’t have a personal smartphone, so when I surrendered the company-issued Blackberry I lost some of the immediate accessibility. I can still log on to my work emails from home on evenings and weekends, but not while in all-day meetings or conferences, or while traveling, at my kid’s soccer practice, etc. like I used to. I get some subtle pressure from my boss to get a smartphone, but it’s an expense and a hassle I don’t want to incur. My husband and teenagers have smartphones that are constant source of distraction and anxiety. If they drop one, it shatters, unless there’s a special case for it. Meanwhile, if I drop my flip phone off a third floor balcony (learned from experience, unfortunately) I can literally put the pieces back together and place a call. I can call, make texts, do whatever I need to. I’m able to function in normal, professional adult society just like we all did before smartphones. No one has ever been literally unable to reach me (they can still text my personal phone if something’s urgent) so the accessibility thing is kind of a cop-out, I think. I have found it a little weird, honestly, how much people (not just at work) try to push it on me, like I can’t possibly be truly happy with the phone I have.

  57. JJ*

    $30/mo for a non-smart phone? I pay $30/mo with T-mobile for my smartphone (although I only get 100 minutes a month since I don’t call so much.) There are lots of less expensive plans out there as well.. Republic Wireless is only $25/mo for a basic smartphone plan with unlimited calling.

    That being said, did your manager specifically tell you that you need to be available 24/7 when you accepted this job (or promotion)? If no, is the nature of this job something where being available 24/7 is a basic and obvious requirement? If no as well, then I’d have a serious discussion with the manager about whether or not you really need to be available 24/7. If they still insist, you could probably use it as leverage for a small raise – both because of your increased responsibilities and having to pay up for a smartphone.

  58. Lisa Petrenko*

    If a smart phone is that necessary, it should be company provided and company paid for.

  59. Wanda Delamere*

    People who don’t use smartphones make the vast majority who do feel uncomfortable. Smartphone users don’t like being unable to assume that we use our phone in exactly the same way they use theirs; they don’t like having to think outside the box to accommodate the person who doesn’t have a smartphone, and something about refusing to get on the smartphone bandwagon makes those who have one feel as if we are criticising their choices. I don’t have a smartphone either – in fact right now I don’t have a phone at all, and when I get one it will be a cheap Nokia flip-phone that allows me to call people and send and receive texts. That is all I need.

    I would love to see a legal test case in which someone sues for unfair dismissal after refusing to go to the expense of getting a smartphone so that they can basically be at work 24/7. I just hope it isn’t you.

  60. Rhaella*

    That was an entirely convoluted answer to the letter writer’s question. The only two questions that must be posed to the supervisor and to the HR department are these:

    1) If a smart phone is required to complete the duties of my job, then will the purchase of the phone, the payment of the cell phone service contract and the ownership of the phone be solely maintained by the employer? This is no different than issuing a service truck to a plumber. The truck is the property of the employer and requirements for its use, as well as all tools issued, are spelled out in the employee handbook. The maintenance costs, cost of insurance, fuel, licensing, etc. is the sole responsibility of the employer.

    2) Will I be paid according to federal labor laws every time I am required to address a business issue during my off duty hours? That means if she is required to answer 1 email on Saturday her employer, by law, is required to pay her 2 hours wages. Every time, every day. Those wages also cannot be combined if an email arrives at 7 am and another arrives at 6 pm the same date. She would then be owed 4 hours wages.

    If the answer to either of the above questions is anything other than “Yes” the company has no leg to stand on in requesting her to spend her private funds on a business asset without being reimbursed for the cost.

    The advent of smartphones and home computer usage has been increasingly used by corporations to obtain free labor in the manner addressed by this employee. It is illegal to make such demands without payment of wages. The letter writer should stand firm in not allowing her employer to take her time for free.

    The letter writer should document the above conversations and request copies of emails to HR in regards to the purchase/payment of the requested phone. These will be highly beneficial to her if her employer attempts to take adverse action against her for refusing to comply with this illegal requirement. If she is released from employment because of this issue, she has a very good legal case against this employer.

    Final Note: I tackled a similar problem back in 1982 with an employer. He required all employees show up every Saturday morning for a mandatory meeting. When he refused to pay us for that time, I wrote to the US Department of Labor (obviously this was before the advent of email). He subsequently recieved a notice of failure to comply with federal law. All employees received back pay for those Sat. morning meetings covering a period of 3 months. Low and behold the meetings were never held again.

    I would venture a guess that when it comes down to the true cost of this requirement, the employer will find that answering emails on weekends is not as important as they first thought.

  61. JD*

    My question would be, Does the employer pay you to be “on call” to receive, answer, or check company email account?

  62. edmundo*

    I have been at my job 12 years for a trendy company, and my employer knows full well I don’t have a smart phone. I am not in the position to pay for a phone or a monthly plan, as I’m paying off our mortgage, funding my retirement and also have a lot of medical bills due to a chronic lifelong (non-contagious) illness plus my partner is on a fixed income. I contacted Human Resources on the advice of my CPA, asking for a letter with a real (not digital) signature that a smart phone, internet access, etc is part of my job description so I can take it off on my taxes as a deduction, much like people do when they must purchase work uniforms. And what did they say? No, it is NOT part of the job description – not for me or the other more than 400 people doing my same job at our other locations. So at my age, saying I’m not getting one makes them think I don’t want to be promoted, which is okay. But if you are under, say, 35, I’d use the financial reason. Contact two large phone providers. Get written pricing for a smart phone plus delivery, charger and protective case, as well as the monthly plan including taxes and fees. Ask if the rate is locked in for how long. Figure out how much the yearly cost is and ask them to give you a raise. Don’t forget to figure out your tax bracket because you want the raise to cover the phone cost after taxes. Then if you get a smart phone, refer back to your original job duties and see if you are salaried to be available 24/7, or sometimes on call, or only work a set schedule., etc. If you were not told you must be available outside your time at the office, then that is a new issue to be dealt with.

  63. Storm*

    I have a “dumb phone” and so does my mother. Their affordable and my father has two smart phones we can screw around with if we want to. But I don’t really care about my lack of a smart phone. If I really wanted one, I would save up but I’d rather buy a tablet with 3G internet then do that so I could at least be connected during certain situations. But a laptop does that job just fine. Heck… When I was a teenager and all my friends were squealing over their first cell phones…

    I was the only one who was annoyed when I got mine. I didn’t want nor ever desire a cellphone of my own I wanted a laptop since I wanted some privacy. I got my laptop eventually and a new phone since at this point I did need one since I was going places alone and I didn’t want to always have to have a friend along to just go to the movie theater alone. (Yeah I was the one friend who got more excited over new Disney movies then Twilight.)

    My mom’s co-workers all have smart phones and they all jokingly make fun out of her dumb phone. One has even tried to swipe to the next picture on said dumb phone believing it had a touch screen…Then saying:

    “Your phone’s broken.”

    “No it’s a dumb phone.” Her other co-worker chimed in.

    It works, they receive texts and have long battery lives. My only annoyance is when the low battery wakes me up because it pings.

  64. M. Storm*

    Most people don’t give it a second thought but smart phones are vulnerable to security breaches whereas the older technology was not because they have the on-board memory and smarts to run malware whereas the older tech does not and because security patches are rarely, if ever, made available for any but the very latest smart phones. To make matters worse – if there is an expectation that the phone be used after work hours, and more likely than not, have that device access your home wifi router (which is very common so as to avoid additional mobile phone expense) than that creates an attack vector into your personal computer and that of any other computer on your home network. Making a conscious decision to accept the security risks inherent in such devices, given that we are all adults and free to make our own decisions as to what level of risk is acceptable to us based on perceived benefits vs. risk, is one thing – however, having that choice thrust upon us – given that it exposes us to the horrendous consequences of identity theft does not seem to be a fair and equitable condition of employment.

  65. Jake Wheeler*

    I see lots and lots of rationalization and denial going on in your post. If that’s not how you plan to receive emails on the go, what then is your plan? The boss is going beyond half-way. She is creating special privileges just for you. She is reaching out. Are you reaching out? If you cannot reach back to your boss, she has the right to hire someone in your place who will. Your attitude is CLASSIC passive-aggressive. Look out the window, it’s 2015. Soon it will be 2016, what are your plans to feed yourself?

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