Phone Phobia at Work

With both Halloween and Bonfire night coming to an end, the past two weeks have inspired an interesting topic of conversation in the Adria Office. So much so, that we decided to write a blog post on it! What is the topic you ask? Phone Phobia, or telephonobia (its technical name) at work.

*Phone rings*

Shortness of breath? Voice cracking? Heart Racing? Sweaty palms? (mmm lovely!) Sounds like you’ve got phone phobia!

So, what it is we actually fear when speaking on the phone at work?

In 1993 it was reported that around 2.5 million people in Great Britain had telephone phobia.

Most recently, a 2019 survey of 500 UK office workers found that a massive 62% admitted to having experienced phobias relating to phonetic phone usage.

The most frequent reasons that the 500 office workers gave for their phone phobias at work were:

  • Worries about not knowing how to deal with a query (33%)
  • Fear of  “freezing” on the phone (15%)
  • Fear that the recipient may think negatively of them (9%)
  • Worries of phonetic articulation, sounding “strange” when talking aloud (5%)


Imagery of two characters- one with phone phobia at work and the other not understanding their fear.
So, does this mean that we’re terrified to speak to each other? Have we lost the art of conversation?

No, not necessarily. With the increased use of mobile phone conversations via social media channels, it’s clear to see that people are still conversing. However, their platform for doing so has changed.

Certainly, it is surprising just how many people identify to fear talking on the phone, despite the average screen/usage time increasing. Weird, huh?

The impact phone phobia can have on work:

Often, being asked to ‘pick up the phone and call’ sends shockwaves through the sufferer’s entire body.

Moreover, the sufferer is likely to be the subject of even more worry. Fear of talking on the phone can result in the individual procrastinating or even avoiding certain office tasks, which may reflect negatively on their work performance.

Sufferers may fear to look lazy if they have not made phone calls or have opted for a different preferred medium of contact. For instance, employers may conclude that an individual does not work ‘quickly’ or ‘effectively’ if choosing to email rather than phone, which of course, is more time-consuming.

Why do we fear speaking on the phone at Work?


An antique black phone that looks scary.


For many, it is the fear of the unknown. A common, generalised form of anxiety. Who is calling us? What do they want? What do I say?

It is different and often more frightening than an ordinary, everyday conversation as you have the loss of one very important sense- sight. You cannot see the other person, their facial expressions, their reactions. Therefore, this may be a major reason for an individuals phone phobia at work.

However, if we break down potential scenarios, the likely hood of receiving a ‘bad’ phone call is very slim. But yet, many are still worried.

It is almost as if we forget that we have the power to stop the call at any time with our magical red button, something we don’t have in face to face conversations (sadly). Some believe that it is in fact, our renowned British politeness that stops us from hanging up. Allegedly, we are too nice to say what is really on our mind and therefore, avoid the situation entirely. Unlike in text messaging where one has several attempts to phrase, rephrase and paraphrase, real-time conversations are void of this kind of editing.

How to overcome phone phobia at work:

Many relate a fear of speaking on the phone with other common social phobias such as social anxiety disorder. Cognitive Behavioural Training (CBT) is commonly used to remedy such worries. Essentially, CBT helps to retrain your anxious behaviour. One of Adria’s very own Director’s, David, admitted that he suffered from phone phobia at work earlier on in his career and had some advice for overcoming the fear:

“Just remember to pause for your own thoughts and listen to theirs!”

Dave said “We have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason. We should always make sure we are listening to the context of the other participant”. He admitted that this helped to alleviate some of his anxieties regarding worries such as; what if I say the wrong thing? Talk too much? Talk too little? By always making sure you’re listening to the recipient, you are focused on the conversation – and not your anxieties!

Our Director also made a particularly good point – identify what the cause of your phobia is.

Is it articulation? (how you sound – your words get muddled when they come out).

Is it your sense of sight? (Not being able to see the other person’s reaction)

Is it the environment that you’re in? (Not being able to make calls in front of other people – you prefer somewhere quieter?)

Dave concluded, don’t expect to have learned everything from one phone call. It will take time. Always make sure you take away another lesson from each phone call and you’ll be there in no time!

Does telephonobia send your heart racing?

We hope you found this article helpful.

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