Time For a Cell Phone Use at Work Policy?

According to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Americans – 95% – now own a cellphone of some kind and 77% of adult Americans own smartphones.  Many employees use their personal devices to make phone calls, surf the internet and send texts while at their workplace, and with 69% of U.S. adults using social media, many also check their accounts while they’re on the clock.  When less formal policies fail to limit cell phone use at work, it may be time to establish a formal cell phone policy.

Cell phones can be an important tool in the workplace. Business owners and employees often deal with pressing situations, and a delayed response can mean losing a customer, a client, a sale or a business opportunity. While sending a quick text might be important, and a few minutes of cell phone use here and there won’t typically hurt a business, excessive use can be a big distraction and become a problem in terms of productivity.

Your employees could resist strict or unrealistic requirements, so don’t ban cell phone use at work unless there’s a security or safety issue. However, you may want to set rules, such as requiring employees to keep their cell phones on silent and to limit personal phone calls to breaks and emergency situations. It’s also appropriate to ban the use of smartphones for playing games, watching videos or texting and chatting while at work.

Policies can be incorporated into the employee handbook and/or communicated to employees in other ways, such as with orientation materials distributed to new employees; in an email or written notice to all employees; and posting the policies in areas frequented by employees, such as break rooms, main hallways or bulletin boards.

Here are some guidelines to consider including in a cell-phone policy:

-Limit private phone use to urgent and time sensitive matters such as childcare and medical emergencies.

-Employees should make personal cell phone calls during break or lunch times whenever possible.

-Employees who need to make or take personal calls should be asked to step out of the office or go into a private area to not distract others.

-Phones can be kept on but should be set on quiet mode at work, with ringtones off. Those who want to listen to music should use headphones.

-When in a business meeting, or at a business meal, do not text and let calls go to voicemail. If an urgent call is anticipated and received, step away to talk.

-Cell phone use at work must never include obscene, discriminatory, offensive or defamatory language.

-Personal cell phones should generally not be used for business-related purposes unless a business phone is not provided or available.

Be sure to also address employees on the road. Prohibit texting while driving, whether your employees drive full-time or only occasionally to carry out their work, and whether they drive a company vehicle or their own.

One of the best things an employer can do to promote proper cell phone workplace etiquette is to model the behavior. If you’re constantly checking your phone, surfing the Web or replying to texts, your employees are likely to do the same.

Cell phones are a part of everyday life for most Americans, and by creating clear guidelines and realistic expectations, their use in the workplace can be managed to both employers’ and employees’ satisfaction.