Cell phone use at work: What’s acceptable?

They are ubiquitous. Cell phones. 61% of the global population uses mobile phones, and 25% of the population uses smartphones. Providing many different convenient ways of easy communication - through calls, text messages, emails, social media - Adults spend an average of 58 minutes on their mobile phone a day. And that number is much higher for young adults.

Remember that amount of time isn’t at one sitting, so some of this time on a cell phone is inevitably spent at work. Communicating through these channels is more discreet than on your computer screen. A text message is much more inconspicuous than a phone call which can be heard by your cube mates. This technology is convenient, but are cell phones taking away from productivity at work?

Before taking any action and creating policies around cell phone usage, here are a few things to consider:

1.     Productivity: Sometimes being able to take care of personal things during work hours can help productivity. It’s not worth an employee worrying about coordinating picking up the kids because that alone can impede productivity.

2.     Culture: What’s your culture like – is your environment informal or is it more traditional? Nordstrom’s employee handbook includes 1 rule: “Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.” To add a policy around cell phone usage doesn’t make sense, so are there other policies around behavior that you can point to? 

3.     Customers: Who your business is serving can greatly drive the impetus to form a policy around cell phone usage. If you work for a company where you host clients or customers regularly, employees may be sending the wrong message if they are heads down on their cell phone.

4.     Work Activities: Take into consideration what your employees actually do during the day. Are they sitting in front of their computers or operating machinery? Using a cell phone can be a huge distraction, if not a liability, depending on what type of work your employees are doing.

5.     Age Demographics: What are the age demographics of your workforce? It goes without saying that millennials and generations that follow will be used to having access to their smartphones at all times. What would a policy do to the morale of this group?

Policies can be great because they set guardrails for appropriate behavior in the office. And at the same time, depending on what they control, can really disrupt something that was working fine. Mobile is here to stay, so how can this behavior be integrated into your business?

Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way. 

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