In today’s technologically advanced world it may feel counterintuitive to leave your smartphone behind. After all, your phone is your lifeline. It’s connected to everything that matters: your bank, your babysitter, your emails, your way of finding information. Your employer, however, may see things somewhat differently. To an employer a smartphone can be a symbol of lost productivity, wasted time, and a source of constant distraction. Instead of polishing up your presentation for the client, you’re on Pinterest learning how to make little salads in jars. I’ll admit, the salad jars are adorable but they probably aren’t the reason you are pulling a paycheck from your company. So, given that the ubiquitous device is so clearly divided on its uses for good and for evil, how then does your company decide if and how to regulate your phone use while you are on company time? How do you bridge the gap between keeping employees productive and information secure, and just being downright invasive?
Companies need to establish cell phone policies that will protect the company first. Data theft is a very prevalent threat in our society and corporations large and small are not any safer from it than you and I. Tess Taylor, a certified human resource and career coaching professional, has suggested the following guidelines for what valid company guidelines should cover regarding employee cell phone use that will help protect the company’s integrity:
- How mobile use is to be monitored to protect the safety and security of company-specific information and clients.
- If the data useage will be monitored and what will happen if an employee abuses the amount of data (for example: downloading large files without permission).
- How mobile devices are to be stored and safely transported to and from the office, as well as during travel.
- Where employees can get support for any technical issues that arise from use of mobile devices and software.
CREATE A POLICY
As far as everyday office use is concerned, managers need to clearly communicate their expectations regarding cell phone useage to their employees. Workplace policies need to be stated clearly and should not be vague or open to any kind of interpretation. A written notice distributed to all employees that requires a signature at the bottom is a great idea. Other means of informing employees about the cell phone policy could include a company-wide email, notices posted in high traffic areas such as lobbies and break rooms, or it can be worked into its own section in the standard company handbook.
COMMON SENSE AND ETIQUETTE
Workplace cell phone policies also need to be reasonable and effective. No, it is not okay to sit at your desk and talk loudly to your friend about this weekend’s plans for 45 minutes, but you also don’t want your employees to have to sneak off to the bathroom just to answer an unexpected phone call from their child’s school. Some reasonable workplace guidelines to help smooth things over and keep things running efficiently may include:
- Restricting personal phone calls to breaks or lunchtime as much as possible (understand that emergencies are a thing), and in a designated spot for cell phone use.
- Frequent, habitual phone use (constantly stepping away from your desk) will need to be addressed.
- Be respectful of those around you. Keep your voice and personal information to a minimum. Conversations should be workplace appropriate. No matter where you are in the building, someone can probably hear you.
- Ringers, alarms, and notification sounds should be set to ‘mute’ or ‘vibrate’ to minimize noise and distractions.
- Taking pictures and/or recording video should be strictly prohibited. This will help to protect the privacy of your employees as well a sensitive company information.
I did notice in my research that no study seems to differentiate between the type of job that may require cell phone use to handle emails, meetings, clients, etc. and the types of jobs for which no cell phone would be necessary (waitress, cashier, etc.). Employees of any sort are all put into just that one category.
In a survey taken in 2016, employers cited cell phone use as accounting for 55% of all wasted time in the workplace. 74% of all employers, however, allow work to be done on personal devices. I did notice in my research that no study seems to differentiate between the type of job that may require cell phone use to handle emails, meetings, clients, etc. and the types of jobs for which no cell phone would be necessary (waitress, cashier, etc.). We live in a digital world, however, and cell phones cannot be 100% avoided in any manner that will not damage employee/employer trust and workplace morale. As long as expectations are made clear and reasonable guidelines are set out, any issues involving employees and cell phone use in the office should be easily kept to a minimum.