Cell Phone/Smartphone Usage at Work – How do I control it?
The usage of one’s Smartphone at work has steadily been increasing. Believe it or not, it is up to the employer whether they permit their employees to spend company time on their Smartphone. Why would you want to do this? Why wouldn’t you? You may also want to speak to – and document – what you want employees to do when they have some “free time”. Checking our phone for messages, phone calls and emails has become the first thing we think of doing when we aren’t busy.
When introducing any change, be clear about the drivers for change and the case for change. The employees need a clear line of sight from the change to an overall mission and/or vision. Then the change is in context, makes sense, even if unpopular, and in essence, conveys logic, fairness, and a bigger picture.
You have a couple of choices in terms of how you introduce the change to cell phone usage to your employees. One option is fully develop the guidelines, meet with your employees, introduce them verbally and/or in writing including a conversation about why there is a need for the change, and then monitor their compliance.
Alternately, you can meet with your employees and talk about why there is a need for change in cell phone usage and the new guidelines. Together you can discuss what the guidelines could/should be, based on the organization’s mission, vision and/or values. It is a common and well founded belief that when employees are consulted or invited to contribute about an impending change, they are more committed to it. Think about how new things are introduced to your life – are you more likely to commit to it when someone else tells you that it is now going to be done this way, or are you more likely to resist it and/or find ways to make it a failure. Yes – most of us like our fingerprints on, our opinion heard about the new ways before they are introduced or implemented.
No matter which way you proceed, you need to get your thoughts together on the valid business reasons – the why and when you will permit personal cell phone usage, and the why and when you won’t be able to permit personal cell phone usage.
Depending on your work environment, there may be a valid business reason why you cannot permit your employees to have their personal cell phones even at their workstation. If you employees are working with highly confidential materials, in a restricted area, or your employees just should not have time for cell phone usage, you certainly are within your rights to restrict it to none at all, or there may be ways that you can still permit your employees to use their personal cell phones while on their breaks.
If, on the other hand, your employees have regular lulls in their work that are beyond their control, or it is a privilege you wish to afford them, then you can grant permission for their use. Happy employees are more productive. With the privilege must come the guidelines, so the employees know and understand what appropriate use is and what inappropriate use is, from your organization’s perspective.
You may want to not only involve employees in the discussion about when they can and can’t use their smart phone, but also in deciding the consequences of using is at an inappropriate time. This is a good time to remind employees why the business exists and the level or quality of service we want to be known for. Then it becomes a much easier sell when creating and enforcing appropriate smart phone usage. Go towards the positive.