do I really have to get a smartphone for work?

A reader asks:

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, cheap, and convenient. 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.

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 She said her and other employees are aware that I have an outdated phone and said it is necessary that I have a smartphone so I can be available to check emails at all times and be reachable.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 it was a cost issue, which I said that it was (although it is also the belief that I don’t really need one). 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 want theirs to be paid for as well.”

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.

I also am concerned that having this work phone would make them think I am available 24/7, even on weekends. 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 worry 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. What are your thoughts?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 350 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    While I don’t at all think it is reasonable for you to be required to have a smart phone, I do want to combat this idea that smart phone = more expensive bill.

    I have an iPhone. My monthly bill is $40. I have a prepaid service that provide unlimited minutes, text, and 7GB of data (which is, frankly, way more than enough considering wifi at home and at work). There are many of these services (and the big 3 carriers all offer them for between 40-50 a month, too). While this isn’t necessarily advise for you, since you don’t want it, I wanted to throw this out there for folks who may want one but think they can’t explore it because of the cost barrier each month.

    1. Cassandra*

      The Woot website often has older-model smartphones for relatively reasonable prices. I picked up an iPhone 6 this way (more than enough for my needs), and run on Mint Mobile for $20/month (payable annually, so if your cashflow won’t handle $240 once a year, this won’t work for you). Talk, text, a tiny bit of data for the rare occasion I’m not in wifi range.

      OP, I wholeheartedly support you in pushing back against always-on. I wouldn’t want that either! But if you find yourself stuck, maybe you can at least reduce the damage to your wallet.

      1. Observer*

        You don’t even need to go with an older model phone, especially if you are willing to go with Android. You can get usable phones in the ~115 range. And, the low end phones are the least likely to need too many accessories because they generally don’t have glass backs.

    2. Amber Rose*

      This is location dependent. I have yet to find a plan with all that, for that cheap where I am. Even with the best deals I could get during Black Friday and on a family plan, my phone bill works out to $105 a month.

      A quick google suggests I am getting the cheapest plan possible. :/

      1. ArchivesGremilin*

        Yes this! I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 and my monthly bill (unlimited text and minutes, 3 GB of data) is $69 a month. So it really depends on the company providing and where you live.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Mine was $110 a month while I was paying for my S7 (which was new; my old phone broke and I had to replace it and went for the shiny one), and now that it’s paid off, the bill has dropped now to $76. BUT–if you do this, you often have the option to pay it off sooner or upfront if you have the money.*

          If you’re using an older phone, it can be even cheaper depending on your carrier. There are all sorts of options. I had Net10 before I switched to T-Mobile, and they had great coverage and do have smartphone plans for $50 a month. The only drawback to them is that you can’t use the phone overseas. But it differed very little from what I have now.

          *I had intended to do this but then lost my job and couldn’t

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          $140 for two people with the max available amount of data before you have to go to unlimited (12G?) and both phones paid off. Granted, we use Verizon, which everyone says is one of the most expensive. I chose to keep it, because, at least in my location, Verizon has a serious advantage over everyone else – it works. Everybody else, I keep hearing horror stories.

          Honestly though? If I had to get a smartphone for work, and planned to use it strictly for work and nothing else, and if I’d been *forced* to upgrade to it for work, I might be less inclined to pay extra for a reliable data connection, so it might end up being cheaper with another provider.

          1. CastIrony*

            My area is the same way. My father works on a ranch an hour away, and guess what? Only phones on the Verizon network work there

      2. Gaia*

        Not really. I’ve had the same pricing in the southeast, the west coast, the southwest and the northeast. The big 3 have the same plans across the nation. WalMart’s service, Cricket, Boost, etc all the same in each region (or within a small variance).

        The big savings come from moving away from post-paid service. They are all more expensive than their prepaid counter parts.

        1. Ashley*

          Metro vs rural is where this can vary. It is worth looking at some of the non three big companies though for data plans.

          1. Gaia*

            I still can’t agree. I’ve lived in rural and metro areas and never paid more than $50 a month since I switched away from post paid.

        2. Amber Rose*

          I mean, I know everyone kind of assumes all letters come from the US, but that’s both not true and not indicated here one way or the other.

          In other parts of the world, it’s not that simple.

            1. Amber Rose*

              I disagree. Compared to Canada, they are almost unbelievably low. We have among the highest phone bills in the world, like top three.

              1. AcademiaNut*

                But compared to the rest of the planet that isn’t Canada, they’re pretty high. I pay 3 USD a month with my pay as you go phone, with an unlocked phone that cost me 140 USD. I get excellent coverage, even in rural areas. Unlimited data costs ~30 USD, and there’s no rural/urban price difference.

                1. CatMintCat*

                  I’m in Australia, and that sounds unbelievably cheap to me. My bare bones plan (2GB data) in our outlying area costs me $114 per month, and coverage is spotty – Iregularly drive through areas with no signal available at all.

            2. media monkey*

              in the UK is it much cheaper (unusually as most things are more expensive here!). i pay about £30 a month for a galaxy S7 and 5gb of data, unlimited calls and texts.

          1. Lita*

            It’s also not true in the US. Not all nationwide plans are available on all zip codes.

            Most cheap data plans are not available on rural areas. They are cheap because they combine cell service with WiFi hopping. Can’t do that in areas without WiFi infrastructure.

            We have no idea where LW lives, so we don’t know what is or isn’t available.

            It’s also besides the point. Even if they got it for free, they still have good reasons for saying no.

            1. Amber Rose*

              Yes, you’re right. I got sidetracked.

              It’s so easy to start running down these rabbit holes and lose track of the original topic. *sigh*

        3. animaniactoo*

          Yes and no. Service can also vary widely – I was recently considering switching, because I could do with a lower phone bill. But my parents who are advocating I switch to their provider are saying they haven’t had much of an issue while my sister who lives down the block from them (and is on their family plan) says half the time she can’t get reception in her home. Or her former workspace. My son reports co-workers having similar issues with their phones. So, I pick the reliability.

          I’ve priced the pre-paid vs the month-to-month contract I’m on and it’s not cheaper for my current provider.

        4. Lita*

          Good for you, But just because something is available nationwide does not mean it’s available in every location in the United States. Within the state I live in, phone plans can run from $40 to $200 for what you are describing.

          Data plans in cities with WiFi and networks are much cheaper than unlimited data in rural areas with coverage only via occasional cel l towers.

          Please, please don’t assert your experience is absolutely the truth. It’s not.

          Dear husband has employees all over the US. He has a bulk contract with a major cattier. Even he pays more for people living in rural areas.

          My mother an I have be same cattier, phone, and plan. Mine is cheaper because I’m almost always in areas with better infrastructure.

          Vast swaths of territory in the US don’t have that.

          To assume plans are cheap is both privileged and factually incorrect.

          Also, a lot of people don’t just have cell, they have bundled services that make their cell cost lower. Bundled services in San Fran are vastly different than those in rural Texas. You get a superior price if you are within sitting distance of high speed internet, urban mesh networks, and free WiFi from Starbucks and McDs.

          If the newest Starbucks is two hours by car, you will be paying more for unlimited data.

          I have personally experienced this.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Plus, in a rural area, you need more phone data because you don’t have things like unlimited high speed Google fiber to your house. I live 2 miles from Google fiber and we’ve never had cable, DSL, Uverse, etc. available. In the last year, we have finally gotten a home service up to a level where we can now watch Netflix and other streaming stuff. Finally. In 2018. Previously, it was very important to have reliable phones because our home internet would go out of service 5x a day.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Yes, my in-laws are in a very rural area and had no service options until a new tower was installed close to them a few year ago. Now, they only get service from carriers using VZW towers. My husband was able to pick them up a plan that provides a ton of data for about $50, but it’s a carrier that resells Verizon service in a pay-as-you-go model and he handles all of the setup, bills, and tech support for them.

              Their Verizon plan, when they had that, was about 3x as expensive as mine is in the DC area because they have no wifi to speak of.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        My family plan is $324/mo. That includes 4 lines and at least one phone payment (maybe two). We have some pretty specific self-employed business and service reasons and needs for having the plan we have. I was looking at phones yesterday, and the cheapest new phone we could get would be an 18-month lease for about $5/mo for a used iphone 7 plus. The standard phone plan and phone cost is pretty high now, esp. compared to 2014, and I really wouldn’t want anyone from my job interfering in what we’re doing. It would be all well and good for someone to tell me I could get a prepaid service for $X, but bottom line is, it’s not their business how I spend my money and I don’t really want their input. Just because something is available and great for one person certainly doesn’t mean it applies to everyone.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Yep. We have six lines, unlimited everything, two phone payments for like $326/month minus $25/month for doing auto pay. Like you we have all of it for some specific business stuff.

        2. Observer*

          There are three issues here. One is whether anyone has any business telling you what kind of phone / service to use. I agree that by and large the answer is NO.

          The second question is cost. It’s very rare that you *need* to pay that much money for a smart phone. $5 per month for 18 months is not that much, and if you are doing a purchase plan, the phone is yours afterwards and the cost is no different that a basic “dumb” phone. It’s also very rare that you really need to pay a $70 per month premium for enough data to handle email, in the US. This actually true in most of the world – even in large parts of Canada, although I will say that their wireless costs are actually ridiculously expensive.

          Lastly is the issue of whether anyone “needs” to have a smart phone for work. That’s a pretty individual thing, but to be honest, it didn’t sound like it was a truly necessary thing for the OP.

          1. WS*

            We agreed to subsidise an employee (who was occasionally but urgently needed after hours) switching phone plans because the only tower with that carrier in her rural area was destroyed in a natural disaster and her home coverage was then zero. She also she had no landline or reliable internet – the phoneline had been damaged a few years before and the company decided not to repair it due to only two subscribers being on it, they subsidised the mobile phones instead. Which was fine until the tower caught fire and repairs were going to take a minimum six months! This kind of thing is really common in rural areas, sadly.

            1. Observer*


              You have to admit, though, that this is not exactly a typical thing. Even in rural areas there is often decent coverage a non-astronomical prices. So while I’d never say “never” I still stand by “rare”

      4. I'm Not Phyllis*

        Yep – if you’re in Canada, there’s no way you would find a plan this cheap. (Although, if anyone in Canada does know of one like this I’m ALL ears!) … here you’re looking at $100 per month easily with the bigger companies.

        1. A New Level of Anon*

          My grandfathered Freedom Mobile plan (bring your own device, no contract) offers something similar and is about $40/month. Granted, I live somewhere where Freedom’s coverage is really good so that’s not an option everywhere, but it’s not as though everyone in Canada has to pay $100+/month for decent smartphone service.

        2. It's anon a competition*

          Public Mobile is the cheapest I’ve found. I got a good deal and also am at about $40/month for 12GB data.

      5. e271828*

        Yes! There are a lot of providers nominally available in my area; in practice, only one of them has enough towers to be reliably usable outside nearest Big City. And no, there is no cheapo option with data.

      6. Michaela Westen*

        I use Speedtalk Mobile and pay by the minute/text/meg. They’re on the T-Mobile network. I pay $100-150 a year.
        The big expensive carriers hid their pay-as-you-go plans so no one knew about them, then discontinued them. What they call “prepaid” now isn’t really prepaid, it’s still a monthly charge.
        Make no mistake, it’s all about taking your money. I looked for months to find a real prepaid plan like my original one in 2008.
        Speedtalk has a sister company that provides similar service on the AT&T network. I think it’s called Jolt Mobile? Check them out, save a fortune! Don’t let the big carriers rip you off! How do you think they pay for their shiny corporate headquarters building on Michigan Ave.?

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      Like OP I am late to the smart phone gig. I got two free Android smart phones unlimited talk/text/data for $80 at Cricket.

      I finally converted after Verizon tried to charge me $300 to replace my old flip ohone once it died.

      1. PNW Jenn*

        My family moved to Cricket a couple of years ago after having been on Verizon (with a 17% public employee discount) where 2 lines shared 3 gigs/month for about $150. We now have 2 lines, each with 3G, and pay $70/month.

        The discount services miss some of the perks of the Big Providers, such as automatic back-up of pics and contacts, but you can download apps to take care of those needs.

        1. Observer*

          If you have an Android, you can do automatic backups to your Google account – and if you have a LOT of pictures and a good enough phone camera that it pays to save in full resolution, you can pay google for extra space – and it’s often a lot cheaper than the cost of the more expensive plans. I’m pretty sure that the same is true on an iPhone. If you have a google account, you can do it that way, but there is also iCloud which comes with every phone.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I didn’t change my settings – it must have defaulted to backing up. I know it is because I got a warning my photos were taking up too much cloud space!

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        What? How? I’m on Verizon. My mom had an old flip that she’d inherited from Dad and I took her to the store to get a replacement after it died. She wanted another flip and nothing else. She got one for something between $1 and $20 (can’t remember the exact amount).

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          At my local store which is just outside KC when mine broke I went in to get it replaced and they went to a drawer. There were 2 available one was $300 the other was $250.

    4. MsChanandlerBong*

      Same here. I bought an older-model iPhone for $99 (brand new, not refurbished), and unlimited text, talk, and data costs me $38.89 per month with tax.

    5. fnom*

      Google Fi might be another option too–$20 for unlimited talk/text and data at $10/GB, down to the penny, based on usage and not-prepay, with a max data charge of $60/mo at which point you get unlimited data. You do need a phone from a short list of compatible models, but I’ve found the service to be good and consistent (it uses several other carriers’ towers), even more than Verizon was in the same places. (I can finally make calls from inside my apartment, instead of going outside! yay!)

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, Google Fi is $30/month for unlimited talk/text and 1 GB of data. If the OP is using her or his phone for only voicemails and calls, she should be well under 1 GB and would even get a refund for unused data.

          1. Emily K*

            I’m on Fi too! I use my phone for a ton of stuff and thanks to the WiFi hopping, I still barely go over 1 GB a month. After taxes my bill is $36-38 most months. Only thing I really consciously do is avoid streaming more than incidental amounts of audio/video when I’m not on WiFi. I download stuff from Spotify etc when I’m on WiFi so I can listen/watch “offline” later, and without A/V eating your data you can do a ton of stuff with very little usage.

          2. Becca*

            I’m on fi as well! I actually had somewhat the opposite problem: it’s cheaper than my old phone plan was (not my reason for getting it, but didn’t hurt) after the data credit is accounted for, but I had to switch to a smart phone because none of their compatible phones had the blackberry style keyboard that I prefer (there might have been a flip phone, but that’s worse than the touch screen). I won’t say the smart phone doesn’t have it’s conveniences!

            Though it did have zero coverage in rural Wyoming. There are apps that let you force it to change what network it uses rather than it determining what it thinks is the best one, but I haven’t tried them yet. It might have just been areas with pretty much no coverage anyway. There are a few places like that near here. My rock climbing instructors lived in such a place and needed a landline.

      1. CAA*

        Fi just opened up to iPhones and other BYO Android devices last week, so many more people can sign up without even buying a new phone! I love my Fi service, and I especially love that my bills that are less than $25/mo when I’m at home and on WiFi all the time, and only about $35/mo when I’m traveling and using more data. Also, my regular phone number works almost anywhere in the world. When I’m traveling, there’s no messing with SIMs or communicating new temporary phone numbers to elderly family members.

        (Anyone who decides to switch to Fi should get a referral code from someone who already has it because you both save $20/each.)

    6. Ruth (UK)*

      I got a smartphone for the first time 3 years ago (so a bit late to the game) largely for the reason that it didn’t cost (much) more. A basic phone (calls and texts) plan was going to cost me £20-something a month but to get the smartphone (came free with the contract) and 200mb data (and the calls and texts) was something like £2 more per month.

      I frequently leave it off or on silent (or not have it with me) though luckily I’m in a job where I don’t need to be contactable outside of office hours and generally don’t need to be contactable away from my desk (and in rare situations where I want/need to be, I turn the sound on my phone on and have it with me).

    7. Lunchy*

      I have Tracfone. I was able to get in when they were still doing the triple minutes for life on their smartphone plans, so I just pay $40 every few months and I’m set. Even though it’s no longer TMFL, it might still be work looking into for anyone who wants a cheap smartphone plan (I think I paid $100 for the phone itself – non-flashy Samsung with a 4in screen).

      1. Clisby Williams*

        I have Tracfone also. I spend about $100 a year on minutes, and that’s it. My phone actually is an early-generation smart phone (it cost $30!) but all I do with it is talk, text, and check the time.

        If my workplace wanted something more than that, they’d have to buy the phone and pay for the plan.

    8. Tin Cormorant*

      Came here to say this. There are a ton of Sprint resellers willing to offer plans with small amounts of data for surprisingly cheap. It’s worth looking into. I don’t stream videos or download huge files on my phone, so I only need 1GB or so for email access and the ability to look up random things I’m wondering about online, and I get that with unlimited texts and minutes for $15/mo right now. It’s worth looking.

    9. epi*

      I think it depends how old this letter is, in addition to the points others have made about location.

      My memory of the first few years of ubiquitous smartphones includes lots of drama about data plans. I knew people who were squatting on their AT&T unlimited plan because it was no longer available to new customers, or being matched anywhere else… At the time data was an (often expensive) add-on to a regular plan with calls and texting at many carriers. And depending how you used your phone, it wasn’t uncommon to go over the limit and be charged much, much more.

      1. Aveline*

        I have a grandfathered unlimited data plan that is super cheap. It can’t be capped.

        It was given to us when DH was an executive at a company that AT&T really wanted to do business with.

        Because we got it in California, they can’t terminate it unless we change phone numbers.

        If we tried to get a similar plan today, we couldn’t. There’s no such thing as an unlimited and uncapped plan. The closest you can get is unlimited, but capped. And it is not cheap.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Yes, that’s one of the reasons I didn’t upgrade my original phone or plan. A friend mentioned a $500 phone bill!
        That’s also why I was motivated to spend months to find another plan like my original one (paying by minute/text/meg), and I will continue to stand up to the big greedy carriers for the rest of my life.

    10. victoria*

      We use Ting and it ranges from $40-$60 a month for two adults, depending on how careful we are with data use. ($6 of that is having a second line, so it’d be even cheaper for one person.)

      The expensive part of most plans is paying off the phone you get when you sign the contract. For someone in this situation, who’s been reasonably happy with a non-smartphone (which I totally understand! I made the switch not terribly long ago myself), a used older model smartphone and a plan from an MVNO would not require them to raise their costs much — maybe not even at all, if they shopped carefully.

    11. Observer*

      I was coming to say pretty much this. You don’t need a really expensive phone and there are a lot of reasonable plans out there that let you deal with email. Sure, you can’t do streaming on the lower cost plans, but that’s not what you are looking for.

      The issue of *choosing* not to have a smart phone is a different issue. Sometimes you really do need to have it for work, but from what you say, it doesn’t sound like it.

    12. Iris Eyes*

      Came here to say the same. Also smartphones are there to be had for $100. They won’t be top of the line but more than capable of emails. Shoot even non smart phones have been capable of email for the last decade.

      OP I do like the push back on limiting your availability.

    13. Hobbert*

      Yep, my iPhone is $70/month for unlimited talk, text, and data and some international use. My husband is a veteran and his is $55/month for the same. Ask about deals! Your employer might offer one or you might belong to a professional organization that has one. If you do end up getting a smart phone, it’s doesnt need to be pricey.

    14. Courageous cat*

      Hmm, my understanding is this is only doable if you pay for the phone in full. Modern iPhones are around $1k now so most people don’t have that ability.

      Also is more doable if you don’t travel much and are in a large city. I got Verizon because I travelled for work and couldn’t afford to lose service if my car were to break down in a rural area or something.

    15. De-Lurking Anon*

      Since I haven’t seen it on the list of phone plan options yet, I’m here to plug Republic Wireless, which I’ve been on for about 5 years (and since I started spreading the gospel I now have my fiance, parents, several aunts and uncles, and multiple cousins all using it). It’s $15/month for unlimited talk and text plus $5/month per GB of data. You can add data whenever you want so you don’t pay for data you don’t actually need. RW is so cheap because they route everything through wi-fi when they can. When they can’t, the phone automatically does a seamless handoff to the T-Mobile network – I never even notice the handoff happening. Because of this flexibility with using both wi-fi and cell, I actually get better service than most people, especially in my garden level apartment and cinder-block office building. You do need to bring your own compatible Android phone (or buy through RW), but they have a good range of options. My current phone (Moto X4) was $250 new and is almost as good as an iPhone, but you can get cheaper phones for around $100.

      Of course, LW, this is all moot if you don’t want a smart phone at all (or if you don’t live in the US or in T-Mobile’s network coverage). But if you have to choose between a flip phone and your job, maybe you could convince them to buy a compatible phone up-front for you, and then your monthly payment can stay the same or possibly even decrease.

    16. Peaches*

      Yes, this.

      I actually pay less than you and have a smart phone – $26/month. I have Cricket Wireless (switched from AT&T a few years ago) and it was the best decision I ever could have made. They use the same towers as AT&T, so the service is great.

    17. boop the first*

      True, I have a super basic set up that isn’t going to satisfy anyone who uses their phone for EVERYTHING (there are a lot of dead zones, for example) but it has “unlimited” everything for $35/month.
      (“unlimited” meaning it’s decent data speed up to a point, at which they’ll slow it down but not disconnect/bill more – which is fine.)

      But I’m comparing it to my flip phone which literally cost me $10/month because I hardly used it. So yeah, it’s always going to be “more expensive” if you’re not a heavy user.

      I had to upgrade because my phone was abandoned by the provider. I still never use it!

    1. Ruth (UK)*

      I was going to comment something similar. The tech team within my department need to be contactable by phone when away from their office/desk for lab emergencies etc, and they have work phones (as well as their personal ones)

    2. Mike C.*

      Yeah, this isn’t hard. I have a Samsung Galaxy 8 sitting on my desk for work, and they take care of everything.

      It’s no different than my work computer. Why be so cheap and weird with this?

      1. Antilles*

        I think a huge part of the reason companies get away with it for phones is because (a) it seems like a very low ask since people already have it, (b) it’s a portable thing you already bring with you, and (c) a significant number of people actually prefer to bring their own phones.
        So all that combines to it seeming like “well, Andy and Bob and Cathy do it, so why is it a big deal for you?”
        That said, I do think you’re right – if it’s a piece of company-needed equipment, the company should provide it just like they provide computers and printers and a furnished office space.

      2. Smarty Boots*

        Agreed. My sister has a work phone that she uses for work — we all have the number in case there is an emergency, but she’s asked us not to abuse it by sending cute kitten pictures and so forth. She mostly uses a tablet for any personal communication, her phone is used ONLY for work (and is absolutely needed for her job). Her employer bought the phone and periodically upgrades it and pays for the plan, which is completely separate from her family’s personal phone plan.

    3. Arya Snark*

      I came here to say this as well. I actually work for a company that manages wireless for other businesses and that is the common practice.

      If they want you to be available via email at all hours, then they need to pay for the means to do that.

      It’s a pain to have two devices, but I would also HIGHLY recommend that the OP insists on a new phone number/new device if they do agree to pay for it. At least that way you could separate your lines when you’re not expected to be immediately available.

    4. hermit crab*

      Exactly! My job does require me to check email on the fly (not necessarily outside of work hours, but in locations where access to a computer/wifi isn’t a reasonable expectation), so they pay for people’s smartphones. Employees can choose either BYOD plus reimbursement or a dedicated work phone provided by the organization.

    5. Xarcady*

      I agree. If it is necessary for the job, the employer should provide it.

      What this means is that the LW’s company is taking advantage of all their employees by using their personal devices to contact them on evenings and weekends.

      I would also want to read very carefully the company’s policy on using personal devices and privacy policies. If you lose your phone, how does that affect the company’s security and privacy?

    6. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I agree. I think if they won’t pay for it because you’re still a relatively junior employee, you probably don’t need one.

    7. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      An employer that requires business formal attire doesn’t pay for your suits, though, even if you have to buy them specifically for that job. Why are phones different?

      1. Anon From Here*

        I can take my suit off when I’m home and off the clock. But if you want me to continue work off the clock, then you need to pay for the tools I use to do the work.

        To take your analogy further, though, I don’t have to pay for my own PPE if I work in a hazardous environment.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        You can take the suit to another job. If the phone use is tied to that particular job, it should be considered company equipment and the company should pay it.

        Plus, there’s the thing of having company apps / access on a personal phone. Some companies reserve the right to wipe the phone if it’s lost or stolen, and if that’s their phone, it’s no big deal. If it’s an employee’s personal phone, such as in a BYOD situation, that’s a VERY big deal.

        PS — Off topic, but I like your username. :)

        1. Anon From Here*

          There are also issues of company-installed backdoors that allow the company to view everything, including data not related to work, on the phone. And the risk that you might have to surrender the phone entirely if your phone is needed for discovery purposes during a legal proceeding. It’s really in a person’s best legal and infosec interest not to mix phone use if at all possible.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            +1 .

            My employer has lots of options for ‘letting’ you use your personal device on the office network / access emails / etc. I read the terms and conditions and nope. nope nope nope. If my company wants me to conduct work on a phone, they can provide me with the phone.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              My company has a wireless which guests and employees are encouraged to use. I don’t on principle – they could track/spy on my personal use and I don’t want that! If I was ok with them seeing it I wouldn’t do it on my phone, it would be on my computer.

          2. Aveline*

            One of my husband’s employers wanted him to use his personal phone. He refused b/c there’s no way we wanted them to have an in onto my devices (our personal Icloud and apple accounts are linked). He informed them that if they insisted, he’s want a letter of indemnity for me in case they ever inadvertently accessed any of my client’s data.

            He got his own work phone paid for by them.

            Companies ask for this all the time. They don’t know the level of risk they are exposing themselves to if they hack into a device owned by the spouse.

            And it had happened inadvertently at one company a friend works for.

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            Phone surrender is not a reasonable ask in 2018. If anyone ever asks you to surrender your phone for a legal proceeding, you should demand that, at their cost, they image your phone and return it to you. This should only take a few hours, provide them with all the data required in a defensible manner, and there is no reason for them to keep your phone long-term. A phone collection should not cost the employer more than a few hundred dollars.

            Many employers use mobile device management systems to “sandbox” an area on the device for company use, and, when you leave their employment or if you lose your phone, they remove the sandbox and not your entire phone. Absent this capability, I would recommend having two devices to avoid the possibility of full wipe.

        2. Justin*

          My last job didn’t provide cell phones and the only way to get access to email or other work documents on your phone was to use your own device, which they could wipe at any time if the device was lost or you left the company. I tried to indirectly ask when I was hired what would happen with your phone if you were let go unexpectedly and they didn’t really answer…”Oh we don’t just wipe phones willy nilly…” I decided that since I wasn’t expected to travel that I didn’t need to set up BYOD, and I’m glad I didn’t. I was eventually laid off after a reorg, I wonder if my phone would have been wiped at that moment or what they would have done.

      3. Anonomo*

        Some industries do pay for attire though. Nurses can have X number of scrubs reimbursed, media personalities are given $X amount to spend on clothing and another $X amount on makeup per year, and janitors are usually given X number of uniforms that the company also will pay to have properly cleaned and maintained. Its very industry specific, but not unheard of for companies to provide help to properly attire oneself.

    8. Anon From Here*

      Or even if I do have a smartphone already, if you want to require me to use a smartphone, then provide me with a work-dedicated smartphone. I’m not about to mix my personal and work use on one phone.

    9. sam*

      At the very least, if they have a BYOD policy, they should reimburse for at least some of the cost – my company reimburses up to $50/month for folks who are considered to have a need to use their phone outside of work (which is basically anyone who has to download the separate secure email app onto their smartphone). Combined with the “company discount” we get on our phones/plans, my net cost for my phone service is $14/month (I had to do a little math, because i also have a tablet on my plan, which is not reimbursed, so I *actually* pay more, but that’s all on me).

      Given that most of us would otherwise have some sort of phone/service that cost more than that anyway, it’s a pretty good deal.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. My position requires that I have a smartphone that receives my company email, but I’m also given a technology allowance that I can use to cover the cost of service, the purchase of a new device, etc. At present, the allowance exceeds the cost of my phone plan, so I’ve started submitting my home internet bills for reimbursement.

    10. Observer*

      I agree.

      Maybe if the office had to pay for everyone’s plans they wouldn’t be requiring so many people to have smart phones.

    11. Wired Wolf*

      My employer doesn’t require people to have smartphones, but due to management not replacing our inventory scanner when they said they would (it broke over a year ago), our manager wants us to photograph each item barcode and send the photos to our manager through our work app for pricing, ordering, etc. That can chew through data quickly, especially since the store’s wifi is spotty at best.

      After I went over my data limit last month doing this task, I told her (and HR) that unless I get in writing that they will pay for data overages my entire team will be doing this the old-fashioned way with paper and pen (which is actually faster and more accurate).

    12. always in email jail*

      100% agree. If it’s an expectation that you have a smart phone, then the company should pay for them. I would be taking a stand for a bit of a different reason, which is that my personal number is just that- PERSONAL. If I need to be contacted about routine work issues outside of work hours, then I should have a work phone number. Then, if I’m truly on vacation or I leave this job, I don’t have to worry about people still calling me. Also, it cuts down on creepy advances from coworkers/colleagues and blurred lines regarding “here’s my number”. The caveat is I always give my personal number to my direct supervisor in case I do need to be reached while on vacation etc., but otherwise I guard it very closely. Almost all of my career has been for the government or in agovernment-funded position, so I also have FOIA concerns about using my personal phone for work-related issues, which is likely influencing my strong feelings on the issue.

  2. Crivens! (Formerly Katniss)*

    If they want you to have THING they should pay for THING. It’d be ridiculous for them to expect you to increase your cell phone bill to have a smartphone (if they indeed demand you have one) and then refuse to offer to pay for it.

    1. Gaia*

      I do agree that if they insist on you using your phone for work purposes, they need to compensate for that (and, really, it should then be a work phone used solely for work because we’ve discussed here the issues of mixing personal and work phones).

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree, a dedicated work phone, paid for by the company, would be ideal for what they want. (Not ideal in the sense that OP will still be working extra hours, but at least she would not be paying out of her own pocket for the privilege of being able to do work 24-7, which is ridiculous.)

        1. Red 5*

          Yes, when I had a job that tried to pawn a fancy device off on us as a “perk” because they were paying for it, they tried to encourage us to actually switch over to using that device entirely instead of keeping a personal phone, wanted us to be reachable all the time, etc.

          I put my foot down that it was a work device, I would have it on and be able to be contacted on it when I was on the clock (I was an hourly employee) and otherwise it would be turned off and in my work bag to be turned back on when I arrived and clocked in again the next day. They tried once to give me grief for not answering a text when I was _on vacation_ but I’d already decided to put in my two weeks notice when I got back, so I just shrugged and said “the fact that I answered at all, even a few hours later, was a favor. You’re lucky I’m not claiming it on my timesheet. I will next time.”

          It’s ridiculous that employers sometimes require that kind of hard line but especially if you are an employee that is paid by the hour, then you should always make it clear up front what you will and won’t do about being contacted off the clock.

          And even if they are paying for the device, you only have to be using the device or be available on the device when you’re being paid to be at work.

          Obviously this is different in some jobs, and exempt vs. non-exempt, but don’t let an employer talk about getting you a device (either partially or entirely paid) without clearly laid out and preferably written expectations about when and how it will be used.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Back in 2000, I was young and naive and had just started my first job at a large corporation (two previous ones were small companies). I was so excited when on my first day there, they gave me a laptop, a cell phone, and a pager! Then a couple of months later I found out what those things were for. heh heh. But I was exempt, and the company paid for the cell and the pager.

    2. ragazza*

      Yep. My company doesn’t reimburse me for my phone costs so guess what, I’m not going to regularly check my email at all hours.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      ARGHHGHGHGHGHGHGHG I so much agree with this.

      My company does not. In fact, they’re about to make us start doing 2-factor authentication (including receiving text confirmation codes on our personal cell phones) to be able to use email. Not cool, but I’m pretty sure piping up about it will get me smacked down so I’m gritting my teeth for it.

      1. Ann Perkins*

        As an FYI on this, some states have passed cybersecurity legislation basically requiring this. I’m in the financial services industry and we just had to start doing multi-factor authentication every time we log on to the VPN this last year in order to comply with regulations.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah, we have it too, and use it in the same way. I do not mind that, because to me it’s different than the expectation to use a personal phone for work emails. My phone isn’t going to run out of storage space or over the data limit because of MFA, but I suppose it could because of work emails and attachments.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I use for phone for work purposes and have never run out of storage space, despite the huge number of emails/attachments I receive. Most phones do not download a copy of all messages/attachments in perpetuity, but rather synch with the corporate server a certain number of days. If you have a low capacity phone, you can only synch a week or two; I do the max, which is a month. Anything older than that, I have to search the server for, which requires a decent internet connection.

        2. LQ*

          Multi-factor and text your personal cellphone is not at all the same though. They can do a phone call with a number or an email to a work email, or other things, and dongles. We require this for vendors and they all have the physical dongles that produce numbers to carry around.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            My company has chosen NOT to go the fob route. Your choices are phone call (which can be to your office line, but of course that doesn’t work during business travel), text message, or download authentication app.

            I really wish they would shell out for a damn fob.

            1. sam*

              The RSA fobs all got hacked a few years ago, so a lot of companies switched to other services, which tend to be phone based.

              It’s nice to know that absolutely nothing is secure though.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                We ditched the fobs after the RSA hack, and no one misses them. We use a phone app that you can use either as a code generator or to receive a pushed authentication where you just hit the green check to confirm.

                Fobs are a pain in the ass. They get lost, the run out of battery (usually at the worst possible time), and they break.

      2. Short Time Lurker Komo*

        My company also just started doing 2 factor authentication, and one of the guys here was able to get it routed to his office phone (call in the numbers) instead of a text to his cell phone – which was somethibg that he could only set up via a support ticket with IT because reasons. No harm in seeing if that’s an unadvertised option!

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Most of the time that I have to use the MFA is when I’m traveling and checking my email via laptop on VPN, so that should also be considered when you choose where to send your MFA calls to.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          It is, and I considered doing that, but of course if I’m doing business travel on a day I have to renew my authentication, it’s back to mobile phone.

          I realize this is a relatively small thing to be annoyed about, but man, does the principle of it piss me off.

          1. Short Time Lurker Komo*

            Oh yeah, it pisses my whole department off too. I refuse to get the app. The main reason I don’t do the office phone route is I don’t want to mishear the number every time we renew (which is weekly). Visually seeing it works better for me. Luckily, we don’t travel, so that’s not a consideration. Sorry the office phone doesn’t work for you! :(

      3. AnotherAlison*

        Yup, we have this. You could either have your cell phone called, or install an app. You also had to check a box that said if you installed company email, the company could wipe your phone if they wanted to. I raised this issue, and the IT people were all like, “Oh, we never really do that. . .” I don’t think my management ever really got the point. I ended up with a company phone for other reasons shortly after this was implemented, so I guess I lost interest in fighting the battle.

        And of course the expectation was that people at a certain level without company phones would still be accessible by email.

        1. SarahKay*

          Well, if they never really do that then they don’t need the check box, right? /sarcasm

          It infuriates me when companies do the whole “You’ve got to sign your phone / life / firstborn away in this legal document, but hey, don’t worry, we won’t enforce it ever…honest!” thing. Sorry, but if I have to sign something saying x, then I’m going to assume there is a definite risk, however small, that x will happen, and why management can’t see that is a constant mystery to me.

        2. sam*

          obviously, make sure that you backup your phone regularly (to your computer, not just the cloud), so that if your company does need to wipe your phone for some horrible reason, you can restore everything.

          It’s my understanding that this is one of those “break glass in case of emergency” situations (either someone has hacked your phone and they need to wipe it to kill the breach OR you’ve left the company under very bad circumstances), but regular backups should help alleviate/eliminate any personal data loss on your end.

      4. rubyrose*

        I’ve had to fight this battle. Companies seem to believe they have the God-given right to use your personal equipment for their purposes, but complain when you use theirs for personal business.

        Have them provide a fob. Yes, it will cost them some MONEY, but not the cost of a smartphone. I think a couple of years ago it was a one time $40 charge.

        1. Lia*

          We just renewed our fobs at a cost of $50 each. They are good for 3 years. The fob vendor also provides a phone app, which I prefer, but numerous co-workers use the fobs instead.

          1. rubyrose*

            Oh, Lia, good to know they have to be renewed! My division was just purchased by another company. I was able to authenticate the fob to the new company, while keeping the ability to access the old. This is necessary right now because we have not done the entire hardware/network changeover. But this is my notification that the new company could easily just decide not to renew the fob. And with the way thing are going with them, that is probably what will occur. At least I have some time to think about what to do; mine will probably come due in about 10 months.

      5. office drone for now*

        My work started doing this, and wanted to have two ways for the second verification. They offered a do-hickey thingy with a button I can press to get a one-off numerical code to enter, if I’m not near my work phone. (Almost everyone else chose to use their personal phones. I want to keep work and home as separate as possible.)

      6. Snow Drift*

        That’s nerve wracking. I can’t get cell service at my house (from any carrier; I live in the boonies at the base of a mountain) and requiring cell phone authentication would make me unable to do my job.

      7. Smarty Boots*

        At one point my phone was very old and could not handle the IOS needed for 2-factor to work with my employer’s authentication and security requirements. They gave me a physical key that I could use with any non-phone device–I just plugged it into a USB port on the device. I used that for a couple of months. And yes, they paid for the key. (State employee, I’m still astonished that they did, because $ and thinking ahead.)

        1. Nox*

          I support 2 factor authentication to access any network information. My customer’s security matters and I don’t complain that duomobile is installed on my device in order in ensure their data stays safe. Sometimes you gotta think about the bigger picture these PCI procedures look to account for.

          Physical fobs are unreliable. At my old job people were lazy and just left them plugged into the towers completely disregarding the whole security purpose of them. That’s what resulted in the change to the phone app.

    4. Systems Administrator*

      Yep 100%. You want me to use my thing do do work things on? Pay me for using it or get me what you want me to use. I’m purposefully going to take on a work phone because as part of a transition at work they’re giving people less money to use their own phones, but they’re increasing the company-paid phones to unlimited data. Uh, duh! Sign me up!

    5. SavannahMiranda*

      It’s pretty standard also that employers can require you to carry the cost on your personal cell phone bill, and submit monthly reimbursements. One of my prior employers required this. A publicly-traded, international corporation with well over 1,000 employees, so it’s not like they were a fly by night operation. They did not pay out of their pockets for your cell service. They reimbursed you, and had IT install the software on your personal cell phone to access work email. (Which then had the rights to completely wipe your phone if it was ever stolen or you ever lost it, motivating one to never ever lose their personal phone. I made sure IT removed that software, and confirmed removal, my last week on the job.)

      I mean, not the best way for a company to handle this. It definitely ticked me off. I felt like I was financing a business expense that belonged to my employer – carrying the cost month to month and spending work time filing for reimbursement. But its really no different from employers that require use of one’s personal credit card for business expenses, which one must then file for reimbursement. Also annoying, but not unusual.

      Just mentioning that there are other ways companies handle this besides obtaining a device, activating it, and handing it over to the employee.

      1. Another Allison*

        For my line of work we need to have smartphones our company has discounts available through two of the big three cell providers to offset costs. I think the discount is pretty good and if you are a company that expects your employees to have smart phone you need to pay of for it or provide a really good discount.

      2. Anon From Here*

        no different from employers that require use of one’s personal credit card for business expenses

        Ugh, my credit card records don’t include photos, records of personal phone calls, text messages, personal e-mails, historical GPS data, and all the other non-work data that my smartphone has on it. Both things are equally subpoenable (credit card records and smartphones), but they are nowhere near the same when it comes to what information my employer can see if I have to use a personal item for work purposes.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        This is a good example of the penny-wise, pound-foolish attitude common in corporations. They saved a few $$, but pissed off their employees which costs them in turnover, management, and reputation, and employees had to spend work time on reimbursement paperwork, which cost them productivity, and the potential cost if they actually had to wipe anyone’s phone… what if the employee sued, or other legal problems.
        All to save a few $$ on providing phones.

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I’m curious as to how old this letter is and if Alison’s advice has changed since it was originally published.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Oh that’s interesting. My responses above and general thoughts don’t change but it’s a slightly different context as I think even in that short amount of time, smartphone ownership has increased quite a lot as well as the shift in expectation that everyone has one etc… I knew a lot more people in 2014 who didn’t have smartphones but almost all of those people do now. I think it seems more unexpected now that someone wouldn’t than in 2014 (I say as someone who got their first smartphone in 2015 – I’m also under 30)

        1. Doug Judy*

          Costs for a smartphone have gone down considerably too. My parents were longtime smartphone hold outs until last year when it was costing them more to have a flip phone than to get a basic smartphone as their carrier only had two basic phones to choose from that cost $15/month where they could get a earlier model iPhone for $10/month, or an Android for less than that.

      2. OfOtherWorlds*

        Put me down as thinking that expectations around this have changed since 2014. In 2014 a working age adult without a smartphone was unusual but not unknown. In 2018 the only people I know that still use flip phones are either very technophobic elderly people*, or children whose parents (understandibly) don’t want them to have the internet in their pocket.

        *One of the elderly technophobes is actually still working, but he’s a bus driver, not an office worker. All of the “old enough to retire but not retired” folks I know who have office jobs have smartphones.

        1. Still Here*

          One of my phones is a flip phone. It’s ideal for when I am doing active things as I can stuff it in a pocket and not have to worry about it getting damaged. Battery life is days not hours.

        2. Brock*

          I’m in a fairly technical field, but my personal phone is still a Nokia ‘feature’ phone running Symbian. Just enough internet and email access to stay in touch if I want, and basic camera/video/apps, but not nearly as attention-grabbing or data-sucking as a smartphone. Also, it only cost around £30 outright, and I pay £5/mo for a voice/texts/data bundle.

          I love it. I bought a second just in case, as it isn’t commercially available any more in this country. I show it off to people, and at least half of them seem to get it about intentionally limited connectivity.

          I had to get a (work-paid) smartphone for work earlier this year. Happily, in my my role I can keep it OFF unless I need it – people know to send me an IM if they need to talk asap.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s from 2014, but I wouldn’t have run it again if my advice had changed (or at least, I would have changed the advice in the new version). Answer is still the same — talk to your boss and figure out how really necessary this is and if there are other ways to achieve the same outcomes … and if not, decide if you’re willing to live with it or not.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I wonder, Alison — for these, you say in the post that you sometimes revise or update your response for these older letters. Can you either include a link to the older post when you do these, or note if you actually have changed your advice?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          My revisions are typically just a few words or a sentence or two. I don’t think I’ve ever run one of these where I wrote an entirely new response (since that would defeat the point of doing posts from the archives). I see how that wording is misleading though and maybe I should take it out! (I included it originally out of a desire to be scrupulous about the fact that they may not be word-for-word reprints, but I doubt anyone really cares about that.)

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            This is good to know, the “revisiting” bit always made me think they were a new look (i.e. new advice) at old letters!

        2. Mephyle*

          I do think, though, the most important thing is to let readers know that this is an old letter revisited, not a current dilemma.

    2. Mephyle*

      I understand how the advice wouldn’t have changed, but in four years, I wonder whether the OP’s feeling about having a smartphone has changed. I’ve seen it happen in real-life contacts.
      Certainly in one aspect things have changed; the cost. The OP may have been going on outdated information even then, to believe that they’d have to pay $100 a month, and it definitely wouldn’t be the case today.

    3. Smithy*

      Tragically – the one area where this kind of time and dropping costs for smart phones may impact jobs is if the OP was writing from a nonprofit. That tragically does remain an area of work where employees buying a bit more of their equipment can be the norm.

      Our team recently changed to allowing greater work from home – and even for staff who are 100% remote – the expectation is that either their home phone will be their work phone or if there’s a desire to keep those separate then the expense will be entirely born by the employee. Our team’s leadership is very open to suggesting cheap solutions or work arounds – but the key expectation is that we will use our smart phones for domestic work and only submit expenses for foreign travel.

      You could certainly argue that some jobs might not truly require a smart phone – but if I were mentoring an employee that wanted to advance my suggestion would be that they’d need a smart phone and expect ultimately needing to pay for it.

  4. Piggy Stardust*

    Sometimes it can be necessary. In my job we use special apps and things for communication.

    Was there ever a time where someone needed to get in touch with you and couldn’t? Or an urgent email that went unanswered?

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      But this goes back to Crivens, if the company requires you have a special tool to do the work they want you to do, they should prove that tool and its accessories.
      I have a smartphone. I would not use it for work, I don’t think. My position currently doesn’t allow us to access email much less files through our own phones or laptops, for security. If my job depended on me using my own phone, I’d have to consider it, but I’d be annoyed.

      1. Piggy Stardust*

        Understandable. I work for a non-profit agency so if staff has their own phones they prefer us to use them if at all possible. Some staff who need work phones for heavy use get company phones, but the rest of us mostly grin and bear it.

      2. aebhel*

        Yep. I have a smartphone, which I pay for with my own money. I will use it to answer calls and texts from work, and occasionally to check my email (although honestly, our mobile email is so out of date that I usually just use a computer anyway). I would in no case be willing to install a special app on my personal phone in order to communicate with work.

        1. uranus wars*

          I have a special app to communicate and was ok with installing it on my personal device. But it also came with a $30 per month reimbursement towards my bill and has never caused me to run over my data. I only have it because I frequently bounce between locations and need to be able to access email.

          I have had email on my phone since 2010 & have always either been reimbursed what equated to 1/3 of my bill or had an entirely separate device for work.

        2. kitryan*

          Sometimes the app is good because it’s a walled garden that prevents the rest of your phone being accessible by work or subject to a remote wipe. The work data just lives in the app, preserving a distinction between it and your personal stuff.
          Since my work doesn’t buy a phone and occasionally requires me to access work emails outside of work hours, they use the app, which I feel is a good call if it has to be on my phone.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Exjob didn’t either–they paid for company phones. Everyone I knew who traveled had two phones. And you had to use their laptops too, with a random password-generating fob for logging into the VPN.

  5. Anchorage*

    An entry-level, or close to it, person would likely be OT-eligible, right? Are you getting paid for 70 hour weeks and do they plan to pay you to look at your email?

    – a salaried email servant

    1. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

      I have the same question, Anchorage.

      I’m a teacher by training so I was always exempt – but no one expected us to work 24/7. Email needed to be checked a few times during the business day – but not after around 4pm at the lastest.

      If the LW is entry-level in media, I suspect they are non-exempt – and if their company expects them to be on-call 24/7, the company needs to discuss how those hours will be billed.

      1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

        I’ve worked jobs like this, here’s the answer:
        1. You will not be paid for that time, unless you do a chunk of work and then request it.
        2. You still probably won’t be paid for that time after you request it.
        3. If you’re not available you’ll be punished and terminated, and replaced with someone who will work for free.
        4. Say goodbye to that media career because there’s a whole line of people willing to do anything (and I do mean anything, look at all the harassment scandals media’s had lately) to work in that field.

      2. Cobol*

        Media can be almost anything, but the general belief is you are available most evenings if the need arises. It may be the extreme, but I don’t think that after 4:00 (or even 5:00 or 6:00) is going to be seen as reasonable. My wife has to leave by 4:30 to pick up kids from a daycare that closes at 6:00 and she’ll occasionally get (slight) pushback.

      3. Le'veon Bell is Seizing the Means of Production*

        Nah, I worked at a media company and almost everyone was exempt. Especially if you’re in a major media market, the vast, vast majority of white-collar positions are classified as exempt, even at the entry level.

        1. Macedom*

          They’d pay way too much to have many of us on freelance – we’re basically constantly in standby mode.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        With regard to the non-exempt issue, mobile email access was a huge to-do for a while because the attorneys wanted everyone mobile-tethered, and the employment attorney and general counsel gave a hard no, citing local labor laws and FLSA. We worked out a compromise that requires that non-exempt people with mobile devices be compensated a minimum amount for checking them and paid for any work (even 15 minute’s worth) that resulted from a mobile email request. The requirement that the OT be charged to the practice heads’ internal budgets also cut down the request authorization.

  6. Gloria*

    My job gives us all iphones. So if it’s that important, the company should do that. But no weekend emailing expected… at least I don’t.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Yeah, but if they give you a iPhone they expect you to carry it and be available at all times. And I don’t want to have to carry a work phone and a personal phone, but I definitely don’t want to use my work phone for personal and lose the number and have the phone wiped when I leave the company.

      1. SignalLost*

        Honestly, I had that reservation when I was handed my work phone. I still feel like a tool carrying two phones around, but it’s actually come in handy since my job involves a lot of fieldwork – I have my colleagues’ contact info on that phone and don’t have to use my phone for anything. Since my job is subject to FOIA requests, I won’t use my personal equipment for work. And it’s been handy to have whenever I’m trying to arrange an interview for the newsletter I produce for work. My boss has not contacted me outside of work hours yet, but my understanding is that at some point she will, and that she’s reasonable once she knows she CAN contact you if there’s an emergency.

        And hey, now I don’t have to get someone to call me when I lose my phone.

        TL;DR – I can’t speak to OP’s philosophical concerns, but having a work-provided phone has not been as onerous as I had worried.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          +100 on the contact info, work files that I can save to it, risk of subpoenas (I don’t have FOIL issues as we’re consultants, but we ALWAYS can be subpoenaed!)

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I found the opposite. I worked at my company for over 12 years before I had a company phone, and I may not have the company phone beyond my current assignment, so I get people calling both cell phones. Therefore, I have to keep them both with me all the time. Ugh.

          1. SignalLost*

            I’m fortunate in that our established culture is that you get phones on Day 1 – I actually still haven’t gotten business cards because Reasons – and my coworkers don’t have my personal number or email.

          1. SignalLost*

            I can’t speak to all situations, but it wouldn’t work for me because of FOIA requests. I really don’t even put my personal devices on my company’s wi-fi. It might work in others!

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I have long had a company-provided phone and my job sometimes requires being extremely accessible; however, even in my job there is no “be[ing] available at all times”. People need to sleep, one can be in a tunnel, or at the opera/concert/poetry reading/kid’s school play, or in a movie, or in the bath or just the battery dies. If you are in a profession that truly needs round-the-clock coverage, there’s shifts with designated on-call people. (Think doctors, firefighters, etc.) If one has a boss who doesn’t accept that people have to sleep, etc, then that a whole other stinky kettle of fish!

        Since I *do* have to have a work mobile, I find it easier to have two phones for the same reason that you wouldn’t want to use your personal phone for work. Those are real concerns that many people don’t seem to think about. I also like to be able to turn the phone off.

      3. uranus wars*

        I mentioned above that I have had company access on my phone since 2010. I preferred having 2 phones when I worked with outside clients but now that I have an app and only that they won’t wipe my phone and they give me a $30 per month allowance (my bill is $90).

        I have never had the expectation of being “on” during off hours. If it’s an emergency situation they would actually call my personal cell, not work, when I had 2 phones. It was more about accessibility during out of office times, which are frequent in both positions.

        I guess I say all that because while we have seen enough letters to convince a lot of manager expect their people to be on 24/7, sometimes they just want them to be more accessible during work hours or in an industry that ebbs and flows like media can they want them to be more accessible/engaged with their team if they work different hours or in different locations.

        1. uranus wars*

          **by accessibility out of office I mean during work hours but physically out of the office. I just realized re-reading that it sounded like I was contradicting myself there.

  7. Foreign Octopus*

    I’m very much similar to you, OP, in age and philosophy.

    I don’t have a smartphone, or social media (and I’m not judgemental of people who do have these things, it’s just they’re not for me), and this is something that I would have to think long and hard about if I was required to have either of those things for work. My last position required me to have a LinkedIn account and I kept putting off and putting off them taking my picture for the profile pic until I quit (unrelated reasons – boss was a nightmare), but I felt uncomfortable having just that information up on the screen.

    Although, it does depend on your situation. I would definitely do as Alison suggests and talk to your boss and explain that you’re not comfortable with being on call 24/7 – it can’t be a surprise as more and more people are creating firmer boundaries between work and personal life, particularly those under 40 – but the media is a slightly different kettle of fish. Use this as an opportunity to check in with your boss about how you’re performing; it might be that she’s concerned because you’re missing something and this is her way of making sure that you don’t. It also has the added benefit of you being in a position to say, if she tells you you’re doing great, that the cell phone isn’t for you.

    Finally, if they really do insist on you having one, I second Crivens! point above. If they want you to have it, they should pay for it. This is where I would really dig my heels in. I’m not throwing money at something that I don’t want or need just because work thinks I should be more connected. It’s a business expense, they should cover it.

  8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    She said … it is necessary that I have a smartphone so I can be available to check emails at all times and be reachable.

    This makes no sense to me, because OP has texting and voicemail. OP already is reachable. Unless there is specific work her manager wants her to be doing from her phone during the off hours? But then, like the above commenters said, the company should pay for THING. I’m guessing this never came up and everyone else happily uses their personal phones to do work?

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree, but that’s the kind of information that crosses into the “24/7 work” territory; in which case, like other commenters have said, work should pay for the phones. My workplace wants us to be reachable too, but by “reachable” they mean things like “if something goes terribly wrong once in a blue moon and we call or text you, we want you to answer the phone or call back”. That to me is a reasonable expectation of what can be done on a personal phone. Anything beyond them and I’d be asking them for a work phone and an expense account.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I also wonder if work is just set up to do things over email, and so remembering “Oh! Valencia won’t see email, so I have to call her” is this extra annoying step that makes Valencia stand out in a negative way, compared to other people at her level.

        1. SignalLost*

          It adds a step for the sender, to be sure. I used to coordinate a monthly potluck list and it was aggravating that 18 of the 19 were reachable by email but the 19th will only do text. But going to text had drawbacks too. I think it depends on how the emails are structured – is this a single incident that Calpurnia can handle by herself, or is there a chain that also requires St. John and Horace and Antonia’s feedback for a reaolution? Because if St. John has to contact Calpurnia and get her feedback and incorporate it into the email chain, that’s an unfair burden on him.

        2. Djuna*

          That’s right where my mind went too.
          A lot of this depends on the job, but people contact me (IM/email) rather than my team if it’s a project I’m their contact for. So my team may not even know someone is looking for me, and if they did, asking them to call me would feel like an irritating extra step. Phone calls and texts are not the norm at all where I work, and haven’t been since even before the OP’s original letter.

          I do feel that if you’re expected to be on call, you should be offered a company phone. I’m not on call (and I’m salaried) so I’m happy enough to use my own phone for the very occasional out of hours check-in. It’s easier than managing two phones for me.

      3. Lilo*

        Especially since OP is in media. Sending media files via email is far better.

        Plus if you are like me you save almost all emails So you create a paper trail that is harder to maintain/print via text.

        There are lots of logical reasons to want email.

      4. aebhel*

        Sure, but computers exist. The jobs where it’s actually necessary to be available at a moment’s notice 24/7 are few and far between; it’s a lot more common for managers to have a completely unreasonable expectation that employees be available constantly regardless of whether or not they’re at work. That’s worth pushing back on, if one is in a position to do it.

      1. Autumnheart*

        She is during work hours.

        If OP is too entry-level for the company to pay her to have a smartphone, then she’s too entry-level to be answering email except during business hours. Whatever it is can wait until she gets to work. Or they can talk to her via text or voice.

        1. irritable vowel*

          “If OP is too entry-level for the company to pay her to have a smartphone, then she’s too entry-level to be answering email except during business hours.”

          Yes, this x1000. This manager is not doing a good job of protecting her entry-level employee from unreasonable expectations, and sounds like she is even the one creating the unreasonable expectations. “You should able to respond to emails outside of work hours” and “you are too entry level to have a company-paid smartphone” are not things that go together, IMO.

          1. Cobol*

            It’s just not how many places work though. We can think it’s unfair, unnecessary, or un something else, but the reality, from OP’s manger’s POV at least, is that not having one will hold OP back.

            1. LawBee*

              This. This this this this. Theoretically, I agree with everyone that it’s un-etc., – but the reality of LW’s situation is that not having a smartphone stood out enough that her boss talked to her about it. We don’t know WHY it stood out, just that it did.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            This is exactly the point I’m trying to make (as do dozens of others on this thread). I’m totally okay with the fact that this is how many places work. I am not AT ALL okay with the fact that OP’s employer is forcing OP to pay a one-time amount and then a monthly fee out of her pocket for what is essentially work equipment.

            1. LawBee*

              We get the point, and I’d say most people here agree – but that’s the reality OP is in. Was in. (old letter) It ain’t fair, but it’s what it is; it’s up to OP to decide how much she wants to push back.

          1. SignalLost*

            That’s a much more significant cost and risk for the employer if it’s lost or damaged or stolen, though. And I’m not sure, so I’m speaking only from my personal setup, but for me, swiping my laptop would get you further into my company’s files than my phone would. If you crack my computer’s password, you can crack my remote access to the company intranet. If you crack my phone’s password, you can call my boss and leave her nasty voicemails.

    1. Blueberry*

      I work at an agency, so if a client emails, they email our team address and everyone on the team gets it. Sometimes these are urgent emails that come after hours or on weekends and need to be handled immediately. I’d be really annoyed if I had to text my coworker to say “Hey, go look at this email right away” because they don’t have email on their phone to be notified themselves. My work does not pay for anyone’s phones because this is a fairly infrequent situation, but when it happens, it can be catastrophic.

      1. AdminX2*

        For me if I’m off hours, that means my phone isn’t checked regularly, for ANYTHING. So a text is as reasonable as an email.
        My thinking is, if it’s important enough to get email 24/7, it’s important enough to pay for. Can’t have it both ways.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Right off the bat, I’ll state that I think that if the employer wants the LW to have a smartphone, they need to provide it (or a stipend to cover the costs) and also have stated expectations for checking it and, if LW is exempt, compensating her for the time.

      That said, I am fully anti-texting for many work-related communications, fully colored by my working in the legal industry. Texts that say “give me a call” or “check your email”, etc.? Fine (assuming non-exempt staff is being paid for monitoring these requests). Texts that include any sort of business or client-related information? Nope, nope, nope. Sending documents/pictures of documents via text or to personal email? Hell, no.

      Your text messages are stored in what is basically a glorified excel spreadsheet on your phone. Personal and business texts cannot be separated, and employers cannot wipe business-related texts from a phone without taking out personals. Unless the employer has a sandboxed text messaging app, using the phone’s built-in is a bad idea, unless you don’t care about your personal messages being wiped or collected for litigation.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I was wondering if that is exactly the reason, like they want to use a work WhatsApp group or something like that which is a bit difficult to do on a computer.

  9. Dwight*

    Usually if the phone is paid for you can get a very cheap data plan. That of course varies by region. One of the problems with an old smart phone though, is the battery, so even if it’s given to the LW, they may have problems within a few months, costing in the range of a 100$ to replace the battery professionally.

    1. Dwight*

      Also remember those old flip phones? How the battery lasted for 3 or 4 days? Well the LW will get a shock as any smartphone barely lasts a day if lucky.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      If its an iPhone, you may be able to get the battery replaced for $30 or so at the Apple store itself. I have a iPhone 6S (fully paid off) and I just got my battery changed a few weeks back at my local Apple store and it’s like a new phone.

    3. Michaela Westen*

      When I got my refurbished iphone in Oct. 2016, I got a new battery installed for $20 at a good gadget store.
      It lasts pretty well… If I only send a text or two it goes down by 10% so I don’t have to charge it that night. If I spend a little time on FB and send/receive several messages and calls, it uses 30-50%.
      I check it every night and put it on the charger if it’s below 85%. I’m cautious about such things. I know the *one* time I will have to do a *lot* with it will be the one time it’s not charged, so I don’t let that happen. :) Also I carry the charger to work, just in case.

  10. Asenath*

    If the smart phone is essential work equipment, the employer should supply it. And while there are jobs that require employees to be on call 24-7 for at least part of the time, many jobs don’t really need this, and there should be some clarification on when LW really needs to be reachable.

  11. EddieSherbert*

    I think Alison hits ther nail on the head – this doesn’t really seem to be about the phone and more about how available you are. Since the issue came up when you had vacation, could you bring a laptop on vacation (and check email a few times) to solve the problem?

    I think there’s probably some room for compromise here, depending on how willing you are to be a bit more tied to your computer or laptop.

    For me, I have a smartphone, but choose not to have any work email or programs on it because my work requires their security system be installed on your phone, and I’m not comfortable with that. Since my shift ends earlier than most people and I fielding marketing requests, I typically do check my work laptop after dinner at home.

      1. Dankar*

        Honestly, I’m an entry-level, hourly employee in a department of two and I do check my emails once or twice per vacation. We sometimes have emergencies that need to be forwarded on to the powers that be, and I’ve found that out-of-office messages don’t always solve the issue of information not getting where it needs to go.

        If I didn’t have a smart phone, I would definitely be bringing a laptop. Having my work email synced to my phone makes everything much easier for me.

        And I don’t recall a single extended vacation from my childhood that my mother didn’t bring her work-provided laptop. She even schedules full workdays in the middle of her vacations sometimes, if an emergency comes up or there’s a single critical job to be run right in the middle of it.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I’d rather have a smartphone than bring a work laptop on vacation if all I’m going to do is check email now and again.

      3. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        This is why smart phones are a good compromise, though…because I do have to check my e-mail on vacation, but I too don’t want to bring a laptop on vacation. Having a smartphone allows me to take a quick look in the morning and it’s not a big deal. A laptop would feel like a very big deal

        1. Smarty Boots*

          I use a tablet. Unless I’m vacationing in a tent, the tablet is handy to have for leisure reading, looking up restaurants, playing words w friends. I could check work email, too, but I’ve gotten good at ignoring it on vacation.

      4. Antilles*

        Agreed. If they’re already angry over not getting email checked on a smart phone, there’s *no way* that “OP has a laptop” wouldn’t quickly turn into “well, since you’ve got a computer, can you take a quick look at…” and suddenly the vacation is not really a vacation.

      5. Djuna*

        100% Vacation is vacation. I’m flexible on many things, but not that.
        It’s paid time off, not paid time nominally-off-but-checking-in-lots-anyway.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I feel the same way, and thankfully, this is the one thing my employer strongly supports.

          If it’s okay for me to be checking into work lots while on vacation, then shouldn’t it also be okay for me to frequently break for doing vacationy things while at work? /s Nah, when I’m on vacation, I need to be in vacation mode with no recollection of anything I work on. Otherwise, it’ll feel no different from work, and at the end of it, I’ll come back to work tired and grumpy instead of rested and refreshed.

      6. EddieSherbert*

        I completely agree, but the OP made it sound like the concern is that she didn’t work enough on vacation… I completely agree that’s a problem in itself, but if that is considered a requirement of her job – then her options might be bringing her laptop on vacation or getting a smartphone (or job searching). It’s her call what she prefers.

    1. AdminX2*

      Cause on vacation I want to have to worry about breaking a piece of expensive work equipment in addition to the other unusual things in my luggage? NOPE!
      I had someone supposedly out today, got their auto message with back up contacts. Great! I email their backups and wait. THEN I get an email from the supposedly out person saying SHE would email the backups also. So I did work I didn’t have to, they get double emails. WHY? Just be out and trust your back ups!!!
      This “new norm” of vacations which really aren’t vacations is a really unhealthy trend.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Agreed, but it sounds like at least checking email on vacation might be a requirement of her job… at which point, her options are to bring a laptop, get a smartphone, or start job hunting.

  12. RG2*

    I wonder if OP’s coworkers are bearing more of a burden than she realizes? Media companies often don’t have set office hours and folks can work really different hours, so maybe it’s a burden on her coworkers to remember whether it’s a time of day the OP is on email v phone? Having to keep that in mind and text her to notify her of an email would be pretty annoying for me on a regular basis. I don’t know if a smartphone is the solution here, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for her to need to check email more often, if the industry/role requires it.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The way this was raised does make it seem like it was in response to an actual problem that came up, rather than to concern about the abstract future possibility of problems. And OP wasn’t there to see the “we tried to reach you, and couldn’t, and eventually solved it without you” aspect.

      It seems like this office expects OP to respond to email more frequently than she is. And in that case, I’m not sure there’s much point to arguing whether the office culture should be totally different in that regard–OP isn’t in a position of influence to reshape the company’s approach to unplugging to detach from work and recharge.

      Anecdotally, spouse got a cell when first child started daycare (near his office) and I got a cell when second child started daycare (near our home) and it was completely due to the cultural expectation that we would be reachable.

      1. NowWhat??*

        This is a great point, considering there are times they have tried to reach her she mentions her phone has not been on vibrate/volume on so she took a bit to return the voicemail or text.

        Your comment has made me think – could OP consider getting a happy-medium device, such as a Kindle, iPad or iPod with email access? This way she has something on the go she can utilize when she has wifi without having to go back home to her computer to check email. Just her having the device may be the comfort her office needs to stop this from being an issue.

        1. Alex*

          “Could OP consider spending $400+ of her own money to be more available to her employers” doesn’t seem like a great solution.

          1. Yorick*

            Nowadays you can get a tablet that would allow you to check email for way less than $400, and if you use it on wifi you don’t have to have a data plan.

      2. Elspeth*

        Yes, except that OP is non-exempt, and she stated in the original comments that she and other coworkers are not paid for answering the phone, checking emails, etc when off the clock, which is a violation of federal law.

      3. Kate R*

        “It seems like this office expects OP to respond to email more frequently than she is. And in that case, I’m not sure there’s much point to arguing whether the office culture should be totally different in that regard–OP isn’t in a position of influence to reshape the company’s approach to unplugging to detach from work and recharge.”

        This is ultimately where I come down on this, and also why I think Alison kind of missed the mark with her answer. I agree that the issue probably has less to do with the smartphone and more to do OP’s rate of response, but even if she was only needed once in X months, if she was hard to reach that one time, it makes her look like she can’t be counted on in a bind. Also, if she requests that someone texts or calls her instead of email, it now adds something extra to someone else’s plate to accommodate the OP because she doesn’t communicate like the rest of them. At several places I’ve work, it wasn’t uncommon for my boss to forward an email with a question from a client to me because they thought I was the one with the answer, and again, having to call me would have added an extra step to the process. It might seem like a minor adjustment, but if you are the ONLY one requiring that adjustment, it can seem like an aggravation to everyone else, especially if the employee requiring special treatment is very junior.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          And yet, even with a smartphone, if they only emailed her they might not have reached her. I *can* check my work email at any time, but I don’t do it on evenings/weekends unless there’s something going on. So there’s *always* going to be the extra step of calling her to check her mail, unless they get her to check it on a regular basis, which likely isn’t appropriate for a non-exempt employee.

    2. NowWhat??*

      This is what I was thinking; almost everyone on my team uses Slack except for 2 people. It’s not required but it is frustrating to separately email or text the people not on the chat about group announcements or having the same conversation twice.

    3. Jen*

      This is also what I thought. I work at a University and we occasionally have to deal with crisis calls. We are not required to have smart phones however, the corporate culture indicates that we are to be responsive if there is a crisis – especially at the director level. Very often my VP will text 5 directors at once asking for help with something (an emergency announcement about classes being canceled due to snow, helping pull together a media response for a negative story) and for a while there one person never had her phone on her. So the rest of us were taking all of the crisis calls the majority of the time on the weekend and granted there weren’t THAT many weekend calls but sometimes if it was a crazier month and I was having to pull out my laptop to write something up on a Saturday I’d think “Can’t Sue wreck her weekend just one of these damn times!”

      So sometimes a specific technology is not required but the corporate culture essentially means that the technology is required. My job also provided a cell phone bonus you could apply for though and that helped. But I really do feel like a lot of corporate culture does expect that you will be available 24/7 and if that’s the established culture at your job, you won’t be able to get out of it without angering your co-workers who are available 24/7.

    4. epi*

      Maybe, but I think that just reinforces Alison’s advice to talk to the boss about where the need for greater responsiveness is coming from– and to bring her own evidence about how often emergencies have really cropped up.

      Once at an old job, I had to get a pager! It was a hospital and even most of the clinical staff other than doctors didn’t have to have them. But one time– one time!– a particularly difficult physician wanted me and couldn’t find me. They told me they didn’t want a particular patient enrolled in a research study (I was the informed consent person), changed their mind after I had left for a meeting off-site, and flipped out when they couldn’t reach me. The pager wouldn’t have changed the outcome in that situation since I was too far away to come back on short notice, and was pretty much a punishment. I knew I was leaving by that point, so I dragged out the pager dispensing process and then never turned it on after receiving it. Since I didn’t actually need it, no one ever even noticed.

      That was kind of an extreme situation, obviously. But being expected to be instantly available for email all the time is a significant burden– and can lead to doing more and more extra work because even non-urgent items are available all the time. I don’t think that should be treated lightly just because it is common. Neither should paying significantly more out of your own pocket for equipment you will only be using for work. If the OP’s boss or coworkers want her to take all that on, they should at least be able to quantify how often this is a problem, why it is a problem, and what the impact on them really is.

  13. biff welly*

    I feel like if they want you to check e-mail and use it for work, then they need to provide it or pay for it.

    If they just feel like you have old technology, well then that is weird and do what works for you.

  14. Hannah*

    I had to get a smart phone “for work” because we were starting to have to use two-factor security measures for some things, and there were literally things I couldn’t do because I didn’t have a smart phone.

    I did have to buy and pay for it myself, because I was the only one who didn’t have one. To avoid buying one for me, they didn’t outright tell me I HAD to get one, but it was clear it was impeding my job not to have one and I didn’t want my non-participation in certain activities to hold me back.

    That said, it only increased my bill by about $5-10 per month, after purchasing a (used) phone. My bill is almost always less than $30 per month because I use a pay-as-you-go service. So if it does turn out you have to have one and they won’t pay (which I think is pretty common), look for some cheaper options!

    1. pleaset*

      What about the mental cost.

      I don’t have a smartphone, because I don’t want the temptation to check social media or email when I’m out. I only do it intentionally.

      In fact, if I got a smart phone I’d probably have a burner flip phone as the main thing I carried a lot of the time. I don’t want to be fully connected!

      1. Delta Delta*

        Mental cost is huge. I burned out at a job because I was too connected to my work email via my smartphone. Boss figured out that if he emailed, people with smart phones would respond, regardless of when or where they were. It became expected that everyone responded all the time. At night. On weekends. On vacation. I remember multiple times picking up my phone on a Sunday and being so full of dread it made me physically ill because I knew there’d be mountains of emails from Boss, and he would get really nasty if people didn’t respond.

        So, yeah. OP ought to find out what the expectation really is.

      2. Hannah*

        Agree completely. This is why I did not add any social media apps to my phone, and I disabled the email from using data. In an emergency I can check my email through the web browser but I am not obsessively connected like that.

        Of course if OP must be checking email for work, and that is just how the job is, well, she will have to decide if that is for her.

  15. Roscoe*

    This really depends on the job for me. For example, I will often IM my boss during work hours (he is in another office). He has his IM on his phone, so I use that as a sense of whether he is “available” or not. I can text him of course, but for not too serious things, IM is good. He is often not in his office, but having the ability to IM him is good. Email is also another issue where I can see them wanting you to be a bit more responsive. Also, sometimes there are specific apps that, while not 100% necessary, make things so much easier that I can see them wanting you to be able to access them often. As an example, my company had our day off requests and things done through an HR app. So if I needed to request a day off, or even take a sick day, it was done through that. Managers got emails and app notifications. I can see a company really wanting the manager to have the app notifications and not waiting until they next check their email to see them

  16. Curious Cat*

    Hmm, I do get where the boss is coming from. But I also work in communication and am in contact with journalists every day, monitoring our news coverage and a large part of my job is social media & monitoring our accounts. So it would be very, very difficult to do my job without my iPhone. I will say that also if something important comes through email, it may be that your coworkers can’t text you to check email because they’re not included on the email. If someone needs something urgently and they’ve only sent it to you, they may not know you need to be texted to check your email (unless you include that as an auto-reply). Just in my opinion, I would think a coworker was a little high-maintenance if they required me to text them to check their email every time I emailed them something important. But, again, that’s just based on how often we all need to be checking our email anyway at my job.

    Another reason I could see the boss wanting you to have a smartphone is for company purposes. Our IT department has just introduced a dual authentication system for our computers where every time we log in, it sends a notification to an app on our phones that we have to then “approve” in the app for us to get logged in to the computer. I wouldn’t be able to do that second approval step without access to the app on my iPhone.

    But also, my company does give me a $60 stipend each month to help cover phone bills, so I absolutely think any company that requires use of your phone for work purposes should provide a stipend of sorts.

    1. Mike C.*

      If the boss wants you to have a smartphone, why can’t they just buy them? Lots of phone companies have dedicated people ready and waiting to sell companies group contracts that are at better prices than individuals are offered.

      1. Curious Cat*

        That’s definitely an option, too. I have a lot of friends/family who work for the federal government and get a provided smartphone. Whether the company provides the phone or just gives a stipend, I think either option should be required if they’re expecting you to use the phone outside “typical” work hours.

    2. Smarty Boots*

      Or they can buy you an authentication key for like twenty bucks. That’s what I and a number of others at my workplace used when we had ancient phones. A physical key (it’s small; I kept it on my key ring) that plugs into a usb port.

  17. nnn*

    Warning to people reading from work: when I opened this page, something started autoplaying with audio (despite my normally-robust adblocker), and I couldn’t see where on the page it was coming from to mute it. Ended up having to mute the tab.

  18. Piggy Stardust*

    Could it also just be the perception? If OP works in media, which is generally “current,” are there optics that OP is out-of-touch with what could be considered normal in the industry and that this could be a barrier for her in the future should she seek to advance in her position?

    1. Curious Cat*

      I was thinking this, too. I was in touch via phone call with someone recently who wanted to send me a paper via fax because they don’t use email. Honestly, I had take a long time and multiple emails to our office admin to locate the one fax machine in our 12-story building. At a certain point it just becomes an inconvenience and a pain for everyone else when the world is moving along and someone is still firmly holding their ground behind.

      1. Falling Diphthong*


        There’s a short-story in there somewhere, the person firmly staying rooted in fax machines and expecting that they have the clout to get other people to find fax machines if they want to communicate. Like Click Clack Moo Cows That Type.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Yuck. That’s when you say, “No, I’m afraid we can’t accept a fax.” Let them figure it out. (Assuming this isn’t a person who metaphorically or literally signs your paycheck.)

        1. Curious Cat*

          It was a client, so unfortunately I didn’t have much push-back after saying, “Would you be able to email me the file?” the first time.

    2. ch77*

      That was my thought as well.
      The optics of this could be really weird. For example, if this is a company that is marketing itself as cutting edge or high tech or anything in that realm related to communications, then it would be awkward in a meeting with clients if one of your employees pulls out an outdated phone.

      I do think getting clarity on the reasoning behind it (optics, constantly available, etc) is important.

      On a slightly different note – the OP was given actionable feedback from their boss. Unfortunately, that type of advice is really rare. In a slightly different example, a friend of mine worked for a tech company and always wore shorts, tee shirts and tennis shoes – like all the other designers at that level. They were wanting to move into management, and the director said that dressing up a bit more (like nicer jeans – we aren’t talking suits or something) would help. While I know it doesn’t seem fair that how you appear matters, but in the real world it still does. Advice to buy new clothes also has a price tag.

      May get skewered for this opinion – but personally – I’d have the conversation with my boss about why, and what the availability requirements are, and then figure out if I want to die on this hill.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I was thinking “ok, boss is making a big deal about this,” until I got to the part where OP said the industry. I think there’s a little more pressure to be on top of things in Media and if you’re out walking the dog or going to the store or whatever you may not see breaking news type stuff until you get home and turn on your laptop. Of course it depends on what type of media OP is in whether this is a concern.

      And OP is entry level, but if she doesn’t want to be forever, this is a thing to think about.

    4. Orange Jello*

      I 100% think it’s the optics of not having a smart phone. If I were the boss or higher management, I would immediately view the OP as having weird parameters and immediately default to someone else who appears ready, willing and able to take on the task. I have a smart phone and honestly it’s just not a big deal. Don’t want to check your work email on vacation? – don’t. I set an out of office that clearly states I’m OOO without access to email/phone and to reach out to XYZ for whatever they need. As for evenings/weekends, etc. I just look at the email – and choose to respond if absolutely necessary. Just because someone sends you something doesn’t mean it necessarily warrants a response ASAP. Sometimes it’s just not possible, but it does allow you the flexibility to respond as needed – and saves you from standing out in a bad way.

      1. Courageous cat*

        “I have a smart phone and honestly it’s just not a big deal. Don’t want to check your work email on vacation? – don’t.”

        Yep. I think all of this is seriously overthinking. Smart phones won’t cause you to suddenly be 24/7 connected or whatever it is you fear – you can do whatever you want on it, whenever you want. Nothing has to change. It just gives you more tools. IMO failure to adapt to widespread new technology is going to hurt you in the long run, and I think in 2018 a smartphone (particularly in cities) is becoming more of a modern-day necessity.

  19. huskypunx*

    My brother is in his late 20s and never had a need for a smartphone either. The problem was everyone thought he was a drug dealer and his flip phone was a burner. People approached him in bars and waiting for the bus as if he sold or was involved with that world. I know it sounds stupid to consider image when choosing a phone, but that’s kinda where we are these days. He eventually relented and just started using my old iPhone 5.

    1. Gerta*

      I had an American colleague make a similar comment about my old-style Nokia, but no-one else in the UK has ever mentioned iit! Must be a US thing.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is such bizarre behavior but most drug seeking behavior is I suppose.

      Someone once asked my mom if she was in a gang because she was wearing a Three Six Mafia hoodie. A tiny middle aged woman in an area without gang activity.

      1. Salyan*

        I was out once exploring a nearby town, and decided to try out my new mini gas camping stove in one of the parks. A little boy approached me and asked if I was homeless. He looked too young to even know about such things!

  20. LawBee*

    My main thought on the “get a smartphone” side is that LW doesn’t need one NOW because she’s not at that level – but if she wants to move up in the industry, this may be a legitimate reason to get one. I can completely see and understand a management decision to promote Candidate A over equally-qualified Candidate B because A has indicated a willingness to be more accessible, including weekends and evenings. I would make that decision myself. (I would, however, understand an employee who turned email notifications off after a certain time at night and only checked on the weekends if it was needed.)

    “Worst-case scenario, an employee can contact me to let me know an important email chain from a client needs to be responded to.”
    That is a bit much to ask of a coworker, especially for someone who has self-described as relatively low-level. I’d be pretty annoyed by this.

    1. Clisby Williams*

      There’s a difference between being willing to be accessible, and being willing to pay the cost of being accessible when the only benefit is to your employer.

      1. LawBee*

        That’s what LW will have to weigh. In *this* job with *this* manger, not having a cellphone has stood out negatively. And in *this* job with *this company*, it’s not likely that her data plan will be reimbursed. And to continue my hypothetical, having a phone was a definite benefit to Candidate A, who got the job. If I were Candidate B, you can bet the bank that I’d find room in my budget for some kind of phone that takes email. If that’s not something that LW is worried about, then cool cool cool.

        I’m not saying LW has to get a smartphone. LW can do what she wants, up to and including deciding that her budget won’t support it right now, and pushing back. Power to her. I agree with you 100% that if the company requires her to have a smartphone for her job, then they should cover the costs. It doesn’t seem like this is the case here.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah that was my thought. It may be that OP’s boss has seen some things in OP that make her a candidate for advancement, but the insistence on old tech that makes her less available is a concern. Boss is looking for someone eager to jump on issues, and OP can’t do that if she doesn’t know about them because she hasn’t seen the emails.

  21. Phoenix Programmer*

    More importantly then cost in $ is the idea that you are available 24/7/365. I would be clear that you are reachable in an emergency.

    I ran into this when I was first given a work smart phone. “Phoenix why didnt you answer my email last night!” And I found that saying – “Oh why didn’t you call me if it was urgent?” Worked really well. Typically they would admit that it wasn’t truly urgent – because it wasn’t. After a while people stopped expecting me to answer emails.

    For some reason most people will not call unless it’s truly urgent but they won’t hesitate to email. I just made it clear that I don’t check emails after hours but to call of it’s urgent. I then turned the email chimer and notifications off as well.

    1. Ali G*

      This is deal I have with my boss. Company won’t pay for phones, so I don’t use my personal phone for work email, etc. If something is going on, I might fire up my laptop to check if someone needs something from me, but otherwise I don’t check emails after hours/on weekends. But, my boss knows he can call or text me if there is something that needs my attention urgently – the key word is urgently! To me, emails themselves aren’t urgent. If you actually need something from me right now, call me or text me. Don’t email me, because it could hours or days before it’s seen by me.

  22. ChachkisGalore*

    So the one thing that twigged for me was this line “Worst-case scenario, an employee can contact me to let me know an important email chain from a client needs to be responded to”

    Its hard to say without knowing the specifics, but everyone in my department has their work email on their phones (or carries a company issued device). Honestly, I’d feel a bit put upon if one team member just expected me to alert them to things they need to respond to via email. Not so much the notification part, but the fact that I’d now need to monitor for things that I need to respond to and that they would need to respond to. It might not sound like much extra work, but I have a really good idea of what I need to be on the lookout for after hours, so it really doesn’t feel like burden to just sort of keep an eye on emails at basically all times. It would take a lot more mental energy (and just actual time) for me to monitor more closely for someone else’s stuff.

    That’s not to say that getting a smartphone is the only solution to the issue (if that is the issue), though.

    1. George Fayne*

      Yeah, I agree with this too. This is essentially downloading work to the rest of your team.

    2. aebhel*

      I’d feel more than a bit put upon if my manager expected me to be checking my email constantly on my days off.

      1. Elspeth*

        Also, if you read the original comments to the question, OP states that she is non-exempt and she and other coworkers are not compensated if they have to text, phone, email when not at work, so the company is also violating Labor laws.

        1. ChachkisGalore*

          Ahhh… So that definitely changes things a bit. Just the fact that they are non-exempt probably means there’s no way that their role actually necessitates constant email connection.

          In my case we are all exempt and it is common/expected that anyone above entry level will need that level of connection (we deal with time sensitive stuff that can have an international component).

  23. Lemon Bars*

    Were you supposed to check emails while on vacation? and reply timely (same day)? I think you need a phone that works, that you can hear when the phone rings, but getting emails that depends on your job. Some jobs it is just apart of the job to be available (24/7) and if that is the job you have you are at a good point in your career to decide if this is the right place for you or if you need to make changes now. But you have to decide if that is what is going on here, or if your boss is being odd.

    What I do: My company pays for the good app but I cover my plan, during our busy times I try to answer all emails received before 8 pm that same day anything after 8 pm I respond the next day. During the regular season I don’t email after I am off work. Vacations I check emails once every day or every other day, but I don’t take vacations during our busy season.

  24. Maya Elena*

    To preserve yourself from seduction by smartphone, hold out for a work-issued one. This will act as a deterrent from using the phone for social media, excessive time wasting, or other ways in which smartphones suck your time and compromise your privacy, while giving you access to the necessary communications and – on occasion – the conveniences of a smartphone, like GPS or quick look-ups of information.

  25. RS*

    I think that if you do have a job where you truly need to be available on weekends and evenings, it’s not unreasonable to expect the employee to have a smartphone. Certain functionality– like group texts– aren’t available on older models. Further, what happens if the OP is not near a computer and needs to be able to look over an email, or some work materials? A smartphone enables you to quickly review materials or respond to messages even if you’re out and about. I feel like then the onus would be on a coworker to call OP and read an email to her, which isn’t really their job. Additionally, you don’t have to be “always” on just because you have a smartphone. I do have to be available on weekends and evenings for my job, but instead of linking my Outlook (work email) to my email function and “pushing” those emails through 24/7, I installed the Outlook app, which I can open and check when I need to. Boundaries are a good thing, but at certain career points, I think this is expected. But reasonable to ask them to pay for it.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Well, I am against the OP’s dislike for smartphones and think of them as a useful tool, but your argument of “A smartphone enables you to quickly review materials or respond to messages even if you’re out and about” is exactly what they don’t want about a smartphone, and I get that too. No one wants to feel like their free time, for instance, spent leisurely shopping is never truly free because they have to “quickly shoot off an email” in the middle of the mall when they’re supposed to be able to enjoy themselves with no obligations. That’s the whole point.

      So I guess maybe I get both sides of it, because this comment does not make having a smartphone sound too appealing, ha.

    2. Octopus*

      That’s the thing though – you still have to remember to check emails on your time off and you still have to mentally sort through what’s urgent and what’s not instead of waiting to read emails when you’re *at work*. And then if you don’t check it because you’re doing something else, how is that any different from the letter writer’s current situation?

      I understand that some people have jobs with different requirements, but to me even being required to check my email a few times on the weekend is a huge imposition on my time off. (I’m also non-exempt.)

  26. Michelle*

    I agree with the all the advice that if this is something the company requires, they should pay for it.

    I am recent smartphone owner, I had to have a new phone in March and smartphones are all they had. I had to pay a one-time activation fee of $45 and a monthly access fee. We (spouse +me) have unlimited talk/text and 10GB of data with rollover. I can connect to wifi at work and we both use wifi at home but our bill is always $100 or more. We’ve tried pricing other plans, checking prices of other carriers and it’s pretty much the same. Plus, in our area, you can’t get coverage with some carriers but the one with the best coverage/connections just happens to be the most expensive. My husband also has a chronic health condition which require maintenance meds, tests and regular doctor visits, so I can understand that the cost can be prohibitive when you have other concerns.

  27. nnn*

    If addressing the “I don’t need a smartphone” aspect is more important to OP than addressing the “I don’t want to have to do email outside of business hours” aspect, an immediate strategic measure could be to check work email whenever you’re at a computer – maybe even set up an alert, depending on the signal-to-noise ratio of your work email. And perhaps make a point of instantly responding to work emails that arrive outside of business hours when you’re at a computer frequently enough and with a fast enough turnaround to make people think you’re responsive.

    Of course, if the “I don’t want to have to do email outside of business hours” aspect is more important, that’s a moot point.

    1. Smarty Boots*

      OP’s non-exempt, so maybe it’s also: I’m not getting paid to answer email after hours; I don’t mind it responding to an occasional emergency text or phone call, but if you want me to be on email after hours a lot, pay me.

  28. What's with Today, today?*

    I work in the media field and the thought of having this type of job without a smart phone is making me nervous. IMO, media is one of the fields that requires having more updated technology. Double if you are in a reporter type position.

    1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      It’s stressing me out just to think of. That being said, my company would provide a smart phone.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, At a company I worked for, I specifically got a smart phone paid for by the company even though my level wasn’t supposed to, because I was responsible for the social media. And doing that does require additional after-hours checking in on and occasional intervention.

  29. Clementine*

    I wouldn’t focus on whether the OP is in the right to not have a smartphone. Consider from the manager’s point of view. She wants the OP to get a smartphone for what she considers good reasons, and they are refusing. In pragmatic terms, “winning” will not endear you to your manager. A smartphone is a small investment to make for a lifetime of references.

    1. Murphy*

      But if the boss thinks that OP having a smartphone is a tacit agreement for OP to be available 24/7, then there’s a lot more to it than just the phone.

      1. pleaset*


        Being available 24/7 is a big thing that it’s worth pushing back against or getting more support/compensation for.

        1. a1*

          But being available “24/7” doesn’t mean actually working 24/7. It means that instead of answering that email at 9pm, after checking messages/texts, she could answer at 7pm (or whenever she got it) or shortly after. Same amount of work, just timelier.

          1. a1*

            after checking messages/texts and going to her computer to reply, like she says she does now.

            (quoted myself to complete the statement)

    2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I agree with you. And the discussion doesn’t exist in a vacuum; if five other employees on OP’s level in the department all have smartphones, and all have a degree of “on-call” that she doesn’t, then–fair or not, reasonable or not–she’s going to look unaccommodating and stubborn.

      1. Elspeth*

        Except that OP states in the original comments that she and other coworkers are non-exempt. The company does not pay them to check emails, texts, etc when they are off the clock, and are thus violating Labor laws.

          1. Observer*

            And, it turns out that I did miss something. But not really relevant to whether she should get a smart phone, although Allison is right that this issues needs to be discussed.

          2. Elspeth*

            Yeah, I was talking about the comments on the original post, not the comments on this re-run. :)

  30. Cobol*

    Media can be almost anything, but the general belief is you are available most evenings if the need arises. It may be the extreme, but I don’t think that after 4:00 (or even 5:00 or 6:00) is going to be seen as reasonable. My wife has to leave by 4:30 to pick up kids from a daycare that closes at 6:00 and she’ll occasionally get (slight) pushback.

  31. Bigintodogs*

    “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.”

    Even though you promptly return the calls, I think the issue is how available you are. If you don’t have email on your phone then I think there’s more of a need for you to answer calls since that’s now the only way you’re reachable.

    1. Kelly*

      If they’re not at work and at home enjoying life, why should they *have* to respond to calls as they come in? I think calling back promptly is the most considerate thing a person can do. This office seems to be abusing their employee’s free time.

  32. Gerta*

    I’m not in the US so I can’t comment on plan costs, but would it be possible for you to use WiFi only and not have a plan at all? I have a basic phone like yours for calls and messaging, with a cheap plan which covers my needs. I also have a smartphone which I treat like a very small computer – emails and internet, and very few apps. I have a small amount of PAYG credit for emergencies, but most of the time it is on airplane mode and I just switch the WiFi on when I want to use it. It means I am the one in control, and saves both money and battery power. If they are offering the hardware for free, perhaps this might work for you.

    1. Close Bracket*

      I do this. However, public wifi is not secure, so it might not be suitable for checking work emails. OP could use it with home wifi, but then they are home, where they probably have a computer that they can check email on.

      1. Gerta*

        Of course, it depends on the circumstances and availability of WiFi. But if OP wants to go through the motions of having the smartphone without being online the entire time, and has enough access to WiFi to meet people’s expectations, I think it’s worth considering as a compromise option. Also, in my previous job the only way I could access work emails from home would be on my smartphone or my heavy laptop which I didn’t always take with me. So might be useful at home too.

  33. Curiouser and Curiouser*

    I work in media and regularly have to check my e-mail/Slack/other forms of communication in my off time. I generally don’t have to do much more than read it, but occasionally it requires my intervention. I am no longer entry level, but this was also the case when I was.

    HOWEVER, this was all communicated to me in every interview and in my job offer. It was clear that being available was part of the deal (with OT of course when I was non-exempt). I am curious what the conversation was with OP when s/he took the job. Was it made clear that being available was part of their job? Or did this sneak up on them? I don’t think requiring a smart phone they won’t pay for is reasonable…but I do think it’s not really about the smart phone. If OP thinks they don’t need to be available once they leave the office and their boss thinks they do, that’s a problem. Whether it’s a laptop, a smart phone, or a tablet, checking e-mail may just be part of this job.

    1. Ali G*

      I think this is the bigger issue. OP seems to not be as reachable as her manager wants, and the manager thinks the problem is that she’s not as connected. However, the problem is actually that the OP doesn’t want to be reachable when she is not working. If this is a requirement of this promotion, she needs to get on the same page as her boss, pronto.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        Yeah, before I reached a level where my job provided a phone, I had a friend who had an old Razr. But she was ALWAYS available via laptop. It wasn’t how I wanted to live, but she was fine with it, and her Razr was never brought up. I bet if OP was available, the conversation would never have happened.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Except that her boss’s page seems to say “We expect you to be available 24/7 even though you’re non-exempt and we’re not paying you for that time.”

        1. Ali G*

          No where in the letter does she say she’s non-exempt. You can be entry-level and still salaried. It’s very common.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Oh, wow. Someone else mentioned her non-exempt status, and I didn’t even notice it’s not in the letter. Whoops!

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      The OP mentioned that the OP was recently promoted. So I’m assuming OP started in a non-smart phone role but promoted to a role that requires a smart phone and hence the issue.

      Curiouser, you’re the first person to point out that OP never said the manager wasn’t going to pay OP for evening work yet I’ve seen too many posts today with people speculating that the employer is violating labor laws. I think a lot of projecting is going on, and I assumed incorrectly that the lack of pay was in the OP’s letter. So thank you for the keen eye to detail!

      Because of my own lack of attention to detail, I originally wasn’t a fan of Alison’s advice on this one. However, if we assume that OP is going to be paid for evening work or if OP is salaried, then it looks like the manager is trying to help OP in OP’s new role and help the OP succeed. In that case, going back to the manager to clarify (“is a smart phone a job requirement” versus “is a smart phone a good idea for career advancement”) is great advice, and once again, it’s Alison 1, Me 0.

    3. OfOtherWorlds*

      It’s possible that OP heard “available” and thought that texts, phone calls, and access to work email on her home PC would be enough, while OP’s boss just assumed that of course OP had a smartphone.

  34. MissDisplaced*

    I am seeing a trend with more and more companies that you have to BYOD (bring your own devices) for the job. Sometimes you get reimbursed, but sometimes not. Where I work, if you wanted a separate or larger monitor, keyboard or mouse from your provided laptop you had to place a special medical request OR buy it yourself (which I did). Same goes with the smart phones, with the exception of the IT and field support type people who get theirs provided. Heck, I end up actually having to buy a lot of my work items out of my own pocket, everything from folders and tablets, to stock photos. I’m paid well, but still! And now, due to tax changes, these things can’t be deducted as a unreimbursed work expense.

    That being said, prices for smart phone plans have come down since 2014. Mine is now only $35/month.

  35. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I’m in Canada so I totally believe that a reasonable cell phone plan is $100/month (grumble, grumble). Mine usually lands at about $125. My employer pays half which is fine by me right now because it’s basically the way I use my phone – half for work, half personal. I don’t love this arrangement because the rules re: FOI, and my own privacy, and deleting information when/if I leave – all of those rules are murky to me and I would rather them be clear. I’m ok with it though (although I fought back hard against a previous employer who proposed the same thing in the past – I didn’t have as much trust in them).

    I feel like, if your employer wants you to have a phone for work, they should pay for it. If you’re “fairly entry-level,” your manager is probably correct that they may have some difficulty getting corporate to pay for it … but that doesn’t mean she gets to download that expense onto you. You’re being gracious enough by letting them use your personal number, and by using your personal internet, for work … but right now that’s your choice. If they want to make after hours availability part of your job, they should at the very least pay for the phone (if not also – pay you or comp your time in other ways … but that’s another story).

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Side note – seeing how much cheaper cell phone plans are in other places is making me cry a little inside.

      1. Aurion*

        Same here. I have a cheap grandfathered plan at about $35/month but I’m on a 5+ year old phone and my data is limited to 3G speeds. When I get around to joining the current technology wave, the bill will hurt. :(

  36. Ann O'Nemity*

    A lot of companies expect employees to use their personal smartphones for work; it doesn’t seem unusual these days. I wonder how many reimburse for it? My own organization has really scaled back on BYOD reimbursements, except for a few critical on-call positions.

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Ours is scaling up actually … we’re moving to a new telephony provider, and you either get a desk phone or a cell phone (not both), and a lot of people who didn’t have cell phones before will be getting them.

  37. George Fayne*

    This letter sounded reasonable enough to me as I read it thinking it was someone with a sort of standard office job. But when I read “I work in the media industry where there are tight deadlines and occasional weekend work,” that changed my mind.

    I’m a mid-level manager in journalism and if this person works in a newsroom, not having a smartphone would come across as very out-of-step with the norm and career-limiting.

    I don’t mean this in the sense of “not being able to check email on one’s mobile device, so you miss an important email.” I mean in the sense of “our industry is going through rapid technological changes, and if you’re seen as someone who resists trying new technologies, that’s a negative.”

    It could be that LW is tech-savvy and totally on top of the latest trends, etc., and the phone thing is one small oddity. But if it’s seen as an indicator of Luddism or stick-in-the-muddism or clinging to the past, that’s going to be a problem in an industry that is all about understanding and embracing how people are behaving and communicating in the world.

    For example, understanding how people use social media is increasingly important — not just so we can use it ourselves, but because a lot of what we report on affects, is affected by or originates in social media. Someone who refuses to use any social media could succeed in, say, a reporter role, but it would be an uphill battle.

    As to cost: in my workplace, we have a split: some people have workplace-owned devices whose service is paid by the company, but some people prefer to use their own device and have us pay for some or all of the mobile/data plan. Generally speaking more tech-savvy people prefer to use their own device, as that way they can upgrade when they want — a workplace-owned device might be updated only every 5 or 6 years or when it no longer works.

    1. Courageous cat*

      “I don’t mean this in the sense of “not being able to check email on one’s mobile device, so you miss an important email.” I mean in the sense of “our industry is going through rapid technological changes, and if you’re seen as someone who resists trying new technologies, that’s a negative.””

      Agreed agreed agreed. This will hold you back in many (most?) industries.

  38. Where’s my coffee?*

    I wish it were required for companies to have to provide necessary work equipment. My company does, but I dislike the growing byod trend. Seems like just another way to burden the average worker.

  39. J Kate*

    I have a basic smartphone called a Samsung galaxy express prime ($100) and limited data plan (2GB) through At&t prepaid that costs me just under $30/month. So the options are out there. But that’s what they should be — options. If you are off the clock and they are not paying for it, they shouldn’t require you to have a smartphone or data or to be available. The only exception would be if you are in some type of critical need position, but then that should be an understanding of the job and you should be compensated accordingly.

  40. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’ve emerged from a past where my boss and the company were anti-technology to the world of everyone is plugged in at all times.

    You can push back. You can demand a company paid device and plan. It’s not outrageous but you’re hurting yourself in this day and age. In that industry even more so. You have to choose between going with the general flow or fighting against a current. Fighting rarely lands you up further on the ladder in my experience. But I’m absolutely all for doing what’s good for you and understanding the consequences.

  41. Jaybeetee*

    I’ve been lucky enough myself to never work jobs that expected availability outside of regular office hours, but even now, I can see how my current job simply assumes smartphone access. On rare occasion, during severe weather events and the like, my manager might send an email early in the morning advising us to not come in. I’m unlikely to hop on my computer before work, but I do check my phone and see the message that way.

    Are we hitting the point where not having that kind of access is starting to come across as rather precious? Akin to someone who faxes in their resume because they refuse to keep a personal email address to apply for jobs online? Or not having a home phone number? I feel like increasingly it’s expected that you’ll be reachable in that way, that anyone holding out is just being difficult or antiquarian. Is refusing to own/use a smartphone become out of step with professional norms?

  42. LQ*

    I think the response on this is so good. This isn’t about the phone, even if they pay for it. I feel like going “Well they should pay for it.” sort of makes things worse, it assumes they won’t and you can use that to push back. I can entirely envision a place going, “Fine! We’ll pay for it and you have to respond within an hour.” NO! The cost of the phone is the cheap part here. The mental and emotional cost of always working is the real expensive part of this.

  43. SleepyInSeattle*

    Just a heads up on the off chance that you happen to be in California, CA courts recently ruled that employers must reimburse you for cell costs at an amount that approximated work usage. New court ruling so not all companies have caught up.

  44. Heather Kanillopoolos*

    Just a small note to OP if getting a smartphone does seem inevitable: I use Virgin Mobile, have an iphone with data package, and pay $30/mo. My plan is “unlimited” data, although you are throttled after 2GB (as I recall), which has never affected me, as, like you, I don’t use my smartphone AS a smartphone much.

    It is possible to find low-cost plans. Virgin Mobile achieves that by offering iphones that are a bit dated (one or two generations removed) and not giving free phones at signup or via upgrades (I paid around $200 initially for my iphone, as I bought refurbished). But those are not likely to be an issue to you if you’re already happy with a non-smartphone. :)

  45. Tata*

    Depending on the cell phone carrier, you can find lower cost plan for a smart phone. My line of work does require a smart phone and we are provided a one time reimbursement of $200 plus $20 per bi-weekly pay check to help cover the cost. We have work apps that are needed to verify a secure connection and log on from home computer. Even if I am at work, our work app is used by IT help desk to verify the employee before resetting passwords, etc. It’s all about protecting employee and customer data by using these apps. I don’t check email on the weekends & rarely do I in the evenings. But when I’m in back to back meetings, it is very useful to grab my smart phone to do a quick check of my email and calendar. I’m sure a lot has changed since the original post back in 2014.

  46. Supreme of Salem*

    So this may come off as blunt but possibly neccessary. OP ,its really not that big of a deal to have a smartphone just as much as you think it’s not a big deal to not own one. And it can be extremely useful in today’s modern world, especially for work reasons. I sincerely believe you’re just trying to be unwisely obstinate about this matter and it may not work out for you in the long run. Granted your company should at least offer to pay for a work one but even so if you work for an industry that is fairly modernized, you need to consider a smartphone’s usefulness.

  47. Bulbasaur*

    I agree with Alison’s answer on this one. Getting a smartphone is a potential solution to… what problem? It’s not clear from the discussion. Find out what problem they are trying to solve with the smartphone suggestion and more options may present themselves.

    I would encourage OP to get one anyway if they work in media, simply because smartphones are tremendously important in today’s society and understanding them and how they are used is a career skill for someone in that field. You can get lower end or second hand ones for not very much money, and you should be able to transfer your existing plan. There’s no need to get a data plan if money is tight – simply using it on WiFi will give you much more insight into what they are capable of and the ways in which they are used.

  48. Gumby*

    I got a smart phone originally because when I was job searching one interviewer laughed at me for still having a flip phone so I gave in to the peer pressure.

    But I also have a friend who is a computer scientist and has worked at a number of high tech companies and lives in the SF Bay Area – he still uses a flip phone and will not ever use a smart phone. He’s pretty serious about privacy (i.e. advises people to never use gmail or unprotected search engines). I’m not sure how that has worked out at his jobs, but he’s managed.

  49. Ann Perkins*

    My previous job provided iPhones to most employees in the office. Then, when I was about 2 years in the higher-ups realized they were wasting a ton of money giving work phones to people who didn’t really need them. We all turned in our phones and some time later our boss let me and a few others know we’d need work phones after all, but now they’d offer a small amount each month if we chose to use our personal phones and an even smaller amount if we decided to get a separate phone.
    Naturally, a lot of people were frustrated because the smaller amount wasn’t enough to cover a smart phone and a plan, plus this all happened because Mgmt wasn’t smart about distributing the smart phones. But at least they offered us SOMETHING. If your bosses consider a smart phone an important part of the job, they should offer to cover at least part of the cost.
    I ended up going with using my personal phone, but it made things frustrating because there was a loss of boundaries to a certain extent.
    Oh, and one more thing: I was a government employee at the time, so choosing to use my personal cell meant that everything on my phone was subject to FOIA requests. Something to consider, if you’re in that position.

  50. Wintermute*

    I’d like to dispute most of your perceptions about smartphones, to be honest. First of all you can get a prepaid smartphone plan for 30-35 bucks a month through most major carriers, or even lower through an MNVO, and the phone itself for 50-60 dollars. You’re working on REALLY old information when you quote 100 dollars as the monthly price, that hasn’t been the price even for unlimited service since I first started in the cell phone industry– these days 60-70 for unlimited data and 30-35 for 2Gb with unlimited talk and text service is the norm. Plus just having a smartphone doesn’t mean you have to have a data plan, companies gave up on that years ago, you can probably keep the same plan you have, you just won’t have mobile data

    Now to your more substantial concern, smartphones offer wonderful features that make it EASIER to disconnect– smart Do Not Disturb mode can let you silence the phone’s alerts but still allow a select few numbers (mom, dad, wife, kids’ school, whatever) to get through. You can set your phone to automatically silence itself at certain times of day, or by GPS location, so you can have it turn off your ringer when you get to work, turn it back on when you leave, then silence itself at the gym, turn back on when you get home, and then silence itself at 9:00pm except for alarms and stay that way until morning.

    You can also set notice preferences as you wish. Set it so work e-mail doesn’t show up on your notifications banner unless you explicitly check it, but personal e-mail flashes an alert but doesn’t play a sound, while text messages play an alert tone and display a notification, and calls ring normally unless they’re from a number that’s not a contact in which case they go to voicemail.

    A smartphone is just a phone, but an infinitely more flexible and powerful one. It only occupies the space in your life you let it occupy. If you go in intelligently and with an understanding of the possibilities of the technology you can leverage that processing power and sophistication to make it do what you like about your existing flip phone only do it even better.

    These days anyone sticking to a feature phone is increasingly looking like people that refused to have their house electrified for fear of a light switch killing them, or stuck with a horse and buggy into the automotive age because “mankind was never meant to travel faster than horseback”. That perception can be hard to shake in a fast-moving or image-conscious industry and it can really hurt, and it sounds like you may be in both at once. But it doesn’t have to take over your life unless you let it, or your boss demands it.

    And if your boss demands it you have a boss problem, not a phone problem.

    1. Octopus*

      Where on earth can you get a smartphone for only $50-$60? That seems like the kind of price you could get for a 5-year-old used phone on eBay.

      Also, $100 is absolutely a recent price estimate. Plans charge for the plan itself then a $20-$30 access fee per phone on the plan. I went into AT&T recently and their unlimited plan was $45 +$30 access fee per line, so that’s $75 for talk, text, and data for one person. Add in $15/month for a new smartphone (which isn’t even for the newest top-of-the-line phones – those are $30/month) and a $9 protection plan and the total is $99. I asked about a 2 GB data plan but somehow that was *more* expensive. Verizon is similar.

      And sure, there are other options for carriers. But it depends on where you live. If you don’t have reliable cell service there’s no point.

      1. Wintermute*

        I just bought my stepdaughter a motorola smartphone, mostly recent model, for 50 dollars. It can be done, trust me. You can get a nicer one for 100 if you’re willing to buy a year or so old (new, in-box, just old stock), or you can pay a company like Motorola directly and get for 200 what a carrier would ask 10 a month for 24 months for (and this time of year you can get a buy-one-get-one or a steep discount).

        I got my Google Nexus 6 on boxing day when it was a year old, thousand dollar phone for 260, direct from the OEM.

        And there are WAYS that companies will try to make you pay 100 a month and you certainly can spend that price, but I pay 35 a month for unlimited talk, text and 4gb of data, the company I used to work for had a 2gb package for 30.

        If you want the convenience of postpaid you will pay more, if you want a family account you’ll pay magnitudes more per line (it’s often cheaper to have five prepaid lines than two or three lines on a family plan) until you hit a large number of lines. If you want subsidized contract pricing they will require insurance with is another 8 or 12 bucks a month.

        The 100 dollar figure you quoted is a family plan, which is designed to get to breakeven once you get four lines, typically. In addition you’re paying a monthly installment for a phone not buying one unlocked on amazon or direct from the manufacturer. There are 30-40 dollar prepaid cash-and-carry plans available from Verizon, AT&T, T-mobile, Sprint, Google Project Fi, US Cellular, C-Spire, Cricket, everyone these days, and that’s not counting going to an even cheaper MNVO like Boost Mobile or Republic.

        You’re comparing apples to oranges comparing a poorly economized family plan using only a single line to a prepaid individual plan without frills like a phone installment contract, insurance (usually a scam IMHO, the deductible is so high you can often get a refurbished phone identical to the one they’d give you cheaper on Amazon or EBay than paying the deductible).

        Also, AT&T prices are always really high, Verizon is slightly better but still a “premium retailer”– Sprint and T_mo have worse service but far lower prices.

  51. Kelly*

    I think that is awesome you don’t have a smartphone. I am jealous actually. I am always trying to fight off phone addiction and I feel like everyone around me is completely addicted. I think it’s unreasonable to expect work email on my personal device. We have work phones, work computers, work email. It’s no wonder Americans are more anxious, stressed, and depressed than ever. We can never be in our own heads alone.

  52. Justin*

    The other problem with the manager’s request that LW get a smartphone is that even if you have a smartphone and can check work email at all times, there’s no guarantee that everyone is checking email at all times. So if you urgently need to contact someone after hours, you would still have to text the person to get their attention and then have them check their email. Because I guarantee LW’s coworkers aren’t aware of every single work email that they get.

    1. JS*

      He is in media and it is my industry as well. Although I rarely respond to an email after 5:30 if I am not supposed to be working late, I still check my work email at least 3 times a night just to make sure no fires have happened. I don’t mean I read every single new message and file them away but I just scan to make sure everything is ok, a few secs max. Media is 24/7 so its important, for your own sanity, to check especially as OP gets more responsibility and client facing.

      1. Justin*

        Sure, but LW can do that on a computer. A smartphone doesn’t guarantee that someone is seeing every message as it comes in.

  53. CastIrony*

    Has anyone mentioned StriaghtTalk yet? If so, sorry I’m so late to this thread.
    StraightTalk is a mobile phone plan carrier that is exclusively from Wal-Mart. It has a smartphone plan that, with tax, costs around $46 a month (it advertises as $45). On OP’s current phone, it would cost $30 (advertised). If they need to call internationally*, it is $60 a month. You can look on StraightTalk’s website to find a refurbished CDMA (Verizon) phone, which I recommend because Verizon works in more remote areas. I got my Android phone on the site for $30 because it was refurbished, but it is no longer being sold there. *cries*

    *If the user doesn’t want to pay for a phone plan, much less for international usage, they can use an Android application (app) called WhatsCall from the Google Play store (app store). Although it uses points for making calls, getting the points is free. They can get the points for minutes by playing the app’s mini-games and doing other tasks like downloading an app (they may be dubious, so be careful!). It even gives the OP a phone number they can use.
    In fact, they can even forego paying for a plan and use the smartphone wherever they have WiFi with this app! The only downside is that it doesn’t do texts, as far as I know. If OP wants to be able to disconnect and also have the smartphone, just relying on WiFi and having this app would be the cheap way to go.

    Anyway, OP, I am so glad to see someone isn’t that plugged in and wants to be true to themselves on that. I just want to comment to give you an option for a smartphone if push comes to shove.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Also, Virgin Mobile. I used to pay $35/mo for unlimited data/text and 300 minutes, and it was perfect for me at the time. Now I can’t seem to live without an iPhone (but also can’t afford to pay for one up front, ha) so it’s not doable anymore.

  54. JS*

    I’m going to come from the perspective of not personal preference nor affordability since a lot have already covered that and more about how this will affect your career. As someone in the media industry as well for the past 5-6 years I will say you absolutely 110% need a smartphone. You need it to the point of you may want to reconsider if this is the industry for you.

    Mainly because in media you need to be available 24/7. Or at minimum at least the illusion of availability. I’ve worked in marketing/comm for 3 big media players. None really expected me to respond to emails at midnight (this too is job/project dependent) however, there is the expectation I am monitoring my inbox so the next morning I have my priorities in order and can hit the ground running. Things happen FAST in media and you need to be able to check your email on the go. You aren’t client facing and still relatively entry level now but as you advance you will be expected to be reachable by email on your phone.

    Additionally, and this is probably the most IMPORTANT factor… not having a smartphone in the media industry is going to make you look extremely out of touch. Media is closely tied to tech and advertising and is ever changing. Even though media companies can be sluggish to actually make big changes they thrive on that illusion of being flexible and leading the field and that is how they get attract advertisers. Even though your work might be stellar and your knowledge of the industry great, media is also highly impression based and frankly very gossipy. As unfair as it is you are going to seem extremely out of touch especially as mobile advertising and app development big focuses of the media industry as its where the majority of users consume content. This isn’t the impression you want to be leaving on people.

    That said you don’t need an iPhone X or something big and extravagant. Plenty of affordable smartphones. Think of it as an investment into your career because it is.

    1. AJ*

      Completely agree. I also work in media (TV production) and my first thought reading this was that OP needs to carefully evaluate the industry fit. In my area of the business, especially at the entry level, the expectation of carrying your own smart phone — and using it for rapid “off-hours” responsiveness — is so standard that resistance would immediately limit your career. (My area of project or production-based media is so brutally competitive that even attempting to push back or negotiate this requirement as an entry-level employee would seem so bizarre as to mark you as unfit to rehire on the next show. Though, admittedly, if you’re in this particular part of media, you’re here because you sought it as a career and probably understood that it’s not for those seeking to turn off worklife on nights and weekends.)

  55. nodramalama*

    I think working in media, it makes sense they want LW to have a smart phone. This might be more relevant as she gets promoted, but usually I’ve found in media, workers are often on the move- meeting with clients, lunches, working outside general office hours, and the ability to have email and internet while staying mobile seems pretty important.

  56. babblemouth*

    If there is a true business need for you to be have a smartphone, your company should pay for it. It’s really that simple.
    As for checking email outside of business hours… it’s not uncommon for that to happen, especially as people get more senior. However, it should be limited to emergencies, which you’d get a heads up on through a text message or a phone call.
    If the teapot factory is on fire and you’re needed on the ground for whatever reason, the way to let you know would never be to email you – people would call.
    If it’s not an emergency, it can wait til the morning. There will always be more work.

  57. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1, if your boss makes you get a smart phone for your work and also makes you pay for the stupid thing, dust off your resume and start hunting.

  58. media monkey*

    i work in the media industry (advertising) and i think someone without a smartphone would seem very out of touch, not least because we advertise on mobile apps and mobile web plus social media, and not having a smartphone would certainly make me think someone wouldn’t be that familiar with this side of things.

    i am in a client facing role and although most emails are not exactly life or death, there is a certain expectation to reply and at least scan things out of hours if there are problems or urgent issues. However most agencies supply smartphones to manager level and above employees so i don’t pay for mine (i have a personal smartphone too).

  59. spek*

    I’m no expert, and you should consult with one, but in my case, since my employer requires that I have a cell phone, and they do not reimburse me for it, I write off the expense at tax time.

  60. Michaela Westen*

    I delayed getting a smartphone until October 2016 because when they came in the late 2000’s, I was burned out on technology and couldn’t handle another new gadget! I decided to buy it then because my boss likes to communicate by text and it was getting too difficult on my old flip phone.
    I’m glad I got it especially for Uber! I have many more social possibilities with Uber, for which I would otherwise have to buy a car! Also taking and posting photos, being able to check Facebook in waiting rooms, and friends who use Messenger to communicate. My smartphone has expanded my life in many ways.
    I bought a refurbished iphone on amazon for a little over $200. It still needed work, which was another $40. I use Speedtalk Mobile and pay by the minute/text/meg. I pay $100 – $150/year.

  61. Frogsandturtles*

    I got my teenager an iPhone 4 on Craigslist for $20. (Yes, twenty dollars.) His Ting mobile account (uses Sprint network) runs me around $30/month — their model is pay-only-for-what-you-use and it’s totally fine. I got him a special case that acts as a battery backup on some tech-refurb site for about $15. Works great. My spouse got his Android phone for free on Craigslist because the charge port doesn’t work — to charge battery he just has to remove it and charge in a separate battery charger. With a couple extra batteries it’s fine. His bill is also around $30/month. There is no need to spend $500 on a phone and $100/month on data.

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