Employee Relations

Cell Phones at Work? Common Company Policies – HR Affiliates Blog

Does it seem that everybody has a cell phone today? The answer is yes; the overwhelming majority do and most have smart phones. Businesses large and small have become challenged with employees bringing their devices to work. Years ago, the issue for companies was how to control use of company phone systems and company time on personal phone calls. Well the cell phone/smart phone dilemma has replaced the issues with the company land line system. But aren’t the challenges for companies really the same? Yes they are.

Company leaders and managers now must figure out how to control excessive texting, tweeting or other personal use of cell phones during the work day. Whether a cell phone is an employee’s personal property, or is provided by the company, you can still control what happens at work. We have worked with many clients on this issue and our recommendation is always the same. Create a policy that will address how you want to control the usage. As the employer, you can decide how far you want to go with control. This may depend upon the issues you’ve noticed with your company. Some companies choose to adopt an easier and more receptive policy, and then if problems persist they may tighten it up. Others take a tougher stance right from the start. The choice is yours.

Make sure your policy is crafted clearly and then enforced. Consistent and uniform enforcement is an absolute must. Don’t apply it to some employees but not others, as this will show a loss of respect for management. Disciplinary actions for a policy violation should be the same as for other company policy infractions (e.g., verbal warning, written warning, final warning, termination). The policy should have a clear purpose such as: “Employees are at work to provide value to the company. During work hours, employees are expected to refrain from excessive (could substitute “any” for excessive if preferred) personal use of cellular phones, computers and PDAs. Personal calls, messaging, or social media updating during the work day interferes with employee productivity and is distracting to others” Here are some common elements that you should consider in your policy:

  • The policy applies to personally or company owned equipment
  • Notify employees that the company is not liable for the loss or damage to personal devices brought to work
  • Consider asking employees to keep their cell phones muted or turned off at their desk during work hours
  • Your policy can remind employees that they can always check their phone during breaks. A more receptive (and easier to sell) approach is asking employees to simply limit personal “time sensitive/emergency” interactions during work time, and make personal less important contacts during non-work time
  • If the use of cell phones is a persistent and significant problem, include in the policy that the employee will be required to surrender it during working hours, or not bring it into the office.
  • Ask employees to notify friends and family members so they are aware of the company policy.

People are so addicted to their devices, be prepared for push back when you roll out your policy. Also, don’t be fooled if an employee tells you that you can’t control activity on their personal cell phone. It’s your company and your workplace. You have total control over what is brought into your facility. You may hear the argument that people need to be able to reach you in case of an emergency. We agree and there are two alternatives. (1) asking employees to simply limit personal interactions to those that are “time sensitive/emergency” during work time, or (2) remind them to give family members the company’s main number to call if there’s an emergency.

Employers are challenged with employees bringing their devices to work. Company leaders and managers must address these challenges with a clear and uniformly enforced policy statement. If you don’t, be prepared for lost productivity from excessive texting, tweeting or other personal use of cell phones during the work day. We would be glad to offer advice or draft a policy for your company.

For assistance with any or all of your human resource needs, HR Affiliates provides solutions that fit any company.

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