Let’s start with the fact that cell phones are here to stay. They have evolved into mini-computers that can be used to access email, the internet and run countless mobile applications. In today’s world they are actually used very little as a phone relative to these many other uses. Additionally, most people are addicted to them to a certain degree. If you go out to restaurants today, many tables are silent as everyone has their heads down looking at their phone. People respond to the dings they receive for alerts just like Pavlov’s dogs. When asked if they would take $1 million dollars to give up their cell phones for a year most people answer a resounding NO!
Having said all of that, what is an employer to do when cell phones have a negative effect in the work place. For many it is a tremendous tool to keep in touch with the office when traveling. However, for others it is a constant distraction that can affect productivity, efficiency, customer service and even safety. When that happens, here are a few tips for managing cell phone usage during work hours.
First of all, you should have a formal cell phone policy in writing that outlines that is provided to all employees who should sign a form confirming that they received, read and understood the policy and the consequences for any violations. The policy should detail all aspects in clear wording and include the reason for each provision, such as to ensure employee productivity or safety. It should also contain what disciplinary actions will be taken for different offenses, up to and including termination. In particular, the policy should set limits on usage. While banning cell phones altogether is not recommended unless it presents a safety issue, such in a manufacturing plant, the policy should establish circumstances when cell phone use is prohibited. For example:
- During meetings or training sessions
- When employees are interacting with customers
- In production areas
- When driving in a car, with the possible exception for calls using a hands free blue tooth connection.
There should also be guidelines to avoid disruptions, such as speaking quietly, keeping calls short and setting phones to vibrate mode.
Second, it is important for management to lead by example. If managers reply to texts during meetings or take frequent personal calls, then it sends the wrong message to employees. They will then be more likely to do the same in other meetings or when working at their desks. However, if managers set the tone themselves, employees will be much more likely to comply as well.
Last, the policy needs to be strictly enforced. As with any policy, if employees know that it will not be enforced, then they will be less likely to comply. Therefore, consistent and uniform enforcement is a must. Hovering over employees can be interpreted negatively, but taking note while walking through the office and during meetings can be effective. Initially, periodic reminders via email can be effective, but if problems persist over a period of time, then it will be time to meet with the offenders to discuss the issues. In doing so, managers should follow the disciplinary steps contained in the policy including the progression actions from warnings, verbal and written, to suspension or reassignment, to ultimately termination.
While most employees work in a professional manner, there are always one or two who will always push the envelope, whether regarding sick time, dress code or a cell phone policy. Total Team Solutions is a valuable resource for developing, implementing and enforcing human resource policies for your small business. Total Team Solutions also provides payroll services, cost effective employee benefit plans and a full range of human resource advisory services. For more information on how Total Team Solutions can help your small business, contact John Morlock at 800-836-9678, ext. 5, or email him at email@example.com.