What To Do When Employees Are Always on Their Cell Phones

What To Do When Employees Are Always on Their Cell Phones

Seeing employees excessively using their mobile phones can be incredibly frustrating and many employers often find this issue difficult to manage. The impact of mobile phones can be a real killer for productivity and culture.

When mobile phone use expectations aren’t clearly communicated in the workplace, impacts on businesses can include:

  • reduced productivity and performance
  • poor service to customers and receiving complaints
  • distracted and disengaged team members
  • safety concerns

So, how can you get your employees off their phones?

Below are some of the key things we recommend you consider, together with having a well-crafted policy or code of conduct that sets out expectations and guidelines when tackling mobile phone usage.

1. Clearly communicate your expectations to employees

Make sure that you communicate the workplace rules to employees. It’s important that any policy you develop truly fits your business, and is well communicated to your team. It’s also a good practice to get your employees to sign a form clearly stating that they have read and understood the policy. Make sure the policy is easily accessible to them. Provide reminders and make sure these are followed up. It’s also a good idea to include your expectations in a simple code of conduct.

2. Consider restricting when mobiles can be used

You may wish to restrict the use of mobile phones to lunch or rest breaks or to deal with an emergency that cannot wait until the end of the day.

If you have employees in a retail or customer-facing role, you should also tell them to turn off their phones to avoid complaints from customers.  It can be annoying if you are waiting to pay or wish to ask a question and you see a person just staring at their phone and ignoring their surroundings. In other environments, you made need to be clear about allowing people to listen to music, with or without headphones in.

3. Keep the volume down and distractions to a minimum

Having mobile phones on loud or vibrate mode can be very distracting when calls or notifications come through, so if this is a problem in your workplace, emphasize to employees that mobile phones should be kept on silent or “do not disturb” mode or, if practical, ask that phones are turned off during the working day. This will also help reduce the noise from the phone affecting other colleagues’ concentration. If people do need to take calls, ensure speaker mode is never used.

4. Decide where phones should be stored

If phones are strictly not to be used during work hours, there should guidelines as to whether employees are allowed to keep their phones in their pockets or on their desks, or whether they must leave them in a secure location, such as a staff room or a place where they store their other belongings. When this is not clear, we often see it creating a real issue in retail, hospitality, and service-based industries like beauty salons or dental clinics.

5. Stepping away to make a call

If an employee needs to make a call of a personal nature, encourage them to step out of the office or to take the call in a quiet area to avoid disturbing colleagues. No one wants to overhear loud, sensitive conversation echoing through the office while trying to focus on their work.

6. Turn mobiles off during meetings

If you are having a team meeting, there is nothing worse than someone being distracted by their phone notifications, messaging, or using their phone and not paying any attention to the topics being discussed. At the start of the meeting, and until it is common practice, inform employees that they need to turn off their mobiles or use flight mode during meetings to avoid prolonging or disrupting the flow of the meeting.

7. Do not allow inappropriate or excessive use

If you do provide an employee with a mobile phone in order to perform their duties, make it clear when issuing that it remains the property of the company. It can be withdrawn and it must be returned when their employment ends. If you consider that an employee is misusing their phone by accessing inappropriate apps, or sites, or making excessive personal calls, you can ask them to meet the costs of any non-business-related calls or excessive data charges.

8. Enforce the policy

Having rules is a great starting point, but you also need to make sure that you enforce them, consistently. Allowing employees to send a quick text here and there could send out the wrong message, and despite the policy in place, without reminders and reinforcing the message, employees may think they can use their mobile as they wish.

Make sure you apply the policy in a fair and consistent manner to ensure employees don’t feel targeted and to avoid any negative impact on team morale. If you’re the business owner you will need to lead by example, adhere to the same rules, and not create double standards. So really think about what works for your business, a blanket approach often won’t work. Be practical and think through what’s required to most effectively support your business operations and promote the culture you want in your workplace.

Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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