SmartPhones in the Workplace – Cutting Off Internet Access Isn’t Enough Anymore

Employee productivity is an ever evolving challenge for employers, particularly in the digital age of cell phones and smart phones. To combat the wandering mind many companies turn off or restrict Internet access. In recent years, however, the 3G network has shattered that effort. With iPhones, Blackberries, and Androids employees can surf the web, text, and IM; they can play games and read kindle books, do their banking, and go shopping all from the privacy of their own property!

Cell phone use becomes more and more difficult to regulate in the workplace as cell phones homogenize into our very culture. We carry them with us everywhere we go and immediate response to calls, texts, and emails is the norm. Our eyes are fixed on glowing screens while we walk down the street and use the restroom. We allow them to interrupt conversations with friends and strangers alike. Naturally, it is not going to be easy to break that bond – or addiction, if you will – during the entire day at work. Digital temptations are fierce and the onslaught constant.

How to Deter Cell Phone Use
A company can require cell phones be turned off during working hours but, of course, the boss is not always present to monitor his employees all day long. So what do you do when the honor system doesn’t work?

  1. Require that cell phones are laid face up on the desk, silenced, and out of reach.
  2. Make a community office cell phone box (in the manager’s office) where employees drop their cell phones at the beginning of their shift.
  3. Set up lockers for employees to keep their personal property safe and their cell phones unavailable.
  4. Make a set “cell phone time.” Prohibition often spells rebellion. Banning cell phone use all together could effect some sneaky behavior. Give employees a set time for personal calls, texts, and games.
  5. Set a rule in the employee handbook stating that cell phone use is prohibited or restricted.
  6. Send employees home without pay for violating cell phone rules or deduct vacation time for hours missed.
Dealing With Text Messaging
It is important to remember that while cell phone use may not be permissible at work, their content is private no matter if the employee breaks the rules or not. At least, this is what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says of a case involving a police Sergent in California. Police officials made the mistake of reviewing a company issued phone, believing that messages transmitted on company property were also company property. The police Sergent named Jeff Quon sued. The case made it all the way to the US Supreme Court who will judge this summer if indeed employers do not have the right to read employee’s text messages.

One Comment

  1. Interesting post. This can be quite a challenge for a manager when his people wouldn’t honor cellphone rules. I think it’s best that lockers are setup where employees can keep their phones before their shifts.

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