Aug 6

The curse of the mobile phone in the office….

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Employees using their personal mobile phones at work has topped a list of what employers consider to be the biggest productivity killers in the workplace. We have all been in the middle of a meeting when an employee answers his mobile phone. In a busy office there is a blast of annoying, impossible-to-ignore ringtones. An employee chats on his mobile with his child about school, while another discusses dinner plans with her boyfriend.

Fifty percent of employers surveyed nationally named mobile phones and texting as the main culprit preventing work getting done. Unsurprisingly, employees agreed that the personal use of technology is one of the leading culprits behind unproductive activity at work. In the same survey, one in four workers admitted that, during a typical workday, they will spend at least one hour a day on personal calls, emails, texts or browsing non-work related websites.

Mobile phones have recently been referred to as “the cigarettes of this decade”. People are addicted and just as cigarettes are banned from some places, more and more organisations are looking to take a stronger stance against mobiles adopting policies to govern their use in the office.

On the flip side, mobile phones can be an easy way to reach employees after normal working hours. The employer can take advantage of the fact that an employee can be contacted outside of work on their mobile phone to talk through an issue or deal with an emergency.

So, any policy governing the use of mobile phones needs to be sensitive to both sides of the debate.

Below are some ideas to help govern their use:

Limits on phone usage

Many companies place limits on personal mobile phone use as follows:

· mobile phones cannot be used during company time except during breaks
· limit calls to real emergencies
· be respectful to others and keep phones on vibrate so loud ring tones don’t disturb others
· mobile phones shall be turned off or set to silent or vibrate mode during meetings
· if you are expecting an urgent call, check whether it is acceptable to take a call and leave the room for the call and keep it brief.

Text messaging

Companies usually need to address the quickly growing culture of text messaging. Text messages can be an insidious distraction, with employees engaging covertly in personal conversations during work. In meetings, text messaging can be seen as the modern equivalent of note passing and are evidence of the fact that the texter’s mind is not solely on the matter in hand.

Many companies have chosen to ban text messaging as part of their mobile phone policy.

Company mobile phones

Many companies prefer to issue company mobile phones to employees who should be using a mobile phone for work -then employees are asked to have their personal mobile phones turned off or stored away during working hours. While this solves one problem, it also opens up others! The sorts of rules governing company mobile phones are as follows:

* Company mobile phones may be used for private calls. All personal calls will be at the employee’s expense and employees will be sent an itemised bill for their personal calls. The Company may deduct the sum owed from the employee’s salary;

OR

* The Company will provide employees with a mobile phone for use in connection with the Company’s business. This is to be used exclusively for work-related phone calls during working hours. Whilst the Company will tolerate essential personal phone calls concerning employees’ domestic arrangements, excessive use of the mobile phone for personal calls is prohibited.

OR

* Company mobile phones may not be used for private calls.

Breach of this policy will be treated as misconduct which may result in a company mobile phone being withdrawn or disciplinary action taken.

In a nutshell……

Whether mobile phone usage is a problem in your workplace or not, at the moment, it is worth considering adding a policy governing their use to your staff handbook. A clear policy on the use of personal mobile phones in the workplace gives you, as the employer, the ability to tackle issues that arise and discipline accordingly.