Consider a Policy for Cell Phones in the Workplace

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Member Contribution by  
of Triella Corp


Are your employees spending too much time on their phones at work? What can be done to avoid this?

Cell phones are a part of our culture and daily lives. Whatever we are doing, our iPhone, Android, or Blackberry device is always within reach. The constant need to talk with people, send text messages, and post the latest status updates not only takes up a large portion of our personal lives, it has also begun to affect our working lives.

Workplace distractions caused by employees spending time on their phones is becoming more prevalent. How do employers maintain business progression and profits while also respecting their employees’ rights to privacy and to bringing a cell phone into the workplace?

One way is to create a policy.

Policies in the workplace exist in order to provide structure to its employees and the working environment. They outline which behaviours and activities are permissible. With more cell phones present in the workplace, employers are beginning to develop policies regarding how much usage an employee can have while on the job.

While drafting a cell phone policy for the workplace might seem like a good idea, it is a daunting task. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to drafting this policy there are 4 key factors that should be considered.

Covers All Communication Devices, Not Just Cell Phones

This should be explicitly stated in your policy. In today’s world, there are many other devices people use to communicate besides cell phones (ex. Tablets, Laptops, Watches, Social Media, etc.). While cell phones can be prohibited from employee use, other devices can be forgotten. You do not want to run into the problem of an employee refraining from using their cell phone at work but continue to use their tablet or laptop for personal reasons. Make sure to be as specific as possible, if you want your employees to cut down on personal devices at work, make sure you account for all of their devices.

Exceptions for Appropriate and Reasonable Uses for Cell Phones

One of the reasons people have cell phones is for safety. You feel better knowing that in case of an emergency you can always call for help. In terms of the workplace, this factor makes it difficult for cell phone policies to be enforced. How do you prohibit the use of cell phones while still allowing employees to be available to their family members in case of an emergency?

There is no clear answer to this question. Some businesses are more firm on the matter, opting for a complete ban on cell phones regardless of an emergency. If you wish to be fair to your employees, then your policy should have a stipulation regarding appropriate cell phone usage. For example, allowing a 15 minute break each workday for employees to check their messages or make personal phone calls.

Coverage of All Employees

An effective policy should cover all employees in the workforce. If cell phones are not allowed in the workplace it should be for everyone, the policy will not take otherwise. Everyone has to be on equal footing in this respect, even employees who are part-time, consultants, or contractors should be included. If they are in any way associated with the business the policy should apply to them.

Enforced Consistently and Regularly

If a policy regarding cell phones is to be written it must be regularly and consistently reinforced. It does not do a business good if an employer instigates a policy and then leaves it in a proverbial desk-drawer for years on end. Employees should be regularly reminded that the policy exists. By doing this, employers are safeguarding their businesses by ensuring that no employee can complain about not being aware of the policy if they are caught breaking it.

When it comes to cell phones in the workplace, an employer can bet that every employee has one and is regularly using it. If a business’ productivity and profits are being damaged by cell phones then the instigation of a policy might be the best course of action. While each policy will be different for each business, consider these 4 qualities when drafting, they will help provide a framework.

*Adapted from http://ohsinsider.com/cellphonehr.pdf 

Courtney Rosebush is a Marketing and Sales Coordinator at Triella, a technology consulting company specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium sized firms. Courtney can be reached at 647.426.1004 x 227. Foradditional articles, go to http://www.triella.com/publications. Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Kaspersky Reseller.

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