We have now reached a point where the use of a cell phone is now intricately woven into everything we do particularly in the workplace. From our social life to business life, the cell phone has found its way into every corner of our existence straddling the line between modern convenience and disruptive nuisance. This article is focused on providing employers with some workable and manageable guidelines as to when, where, and how employees can use cell phones without causing ongoing disruption to company productivity. To do this, you must have an explicit cell phone policy as part of your company manual or handbook which points out what is an acceptable and unacceptable use of cell phones at your business. Here are a few suggestions as to how you can accommodate employee cellphones in the workplace so as to allow your managers and supervisors to be able to maintain their sanity at the same time:
1. You must have written, consistent guidelines at the very start. To do this, you need to bring into the decision-making process all of your managers and human resources personnel as well as any pertinent IT staff into the discussion. When a policy is drafted it should also be sent to your legal counsel for review and comment. Some of the questions to consider are whether there are already existing issues, whether there is an excessive amount of texting, and whether the cell phone camera is being used indiscriminately in the workplace causing privacy issues and potential embarrassment for other employees.
2. Creating a smartphone app for your company. It depends on how the cell phone fits in with your company's business. From my experience, this is a great way to manage and monitor cell phone use particularly in the arena of sales-oriented companies whose employees are on the road much of the day.
3. Mandate that all cellphones be on vibrate mode only while in the workplace. There is nothing more disconcerting than to be in an office with a number of cell phones ringing. You certainly do not want your office to be viewed, both internally and externally, like a three-ring circus. Having said this, your company must mandate that all cell phones be put into vibration mode only within the entire workplace.
4. Make sure that you set limits as to the overall use of employees' cell phones. Your comprehensive corporate policy must, as one of its chief purposes, establish where and when cell phones can be used. More often it is the case to establish where they cannot be used. Some examples of where my own clients have sought to restrict cell phone use have been during meetings, training sessions, and conferences. Others have sought to limit the use of cell phones while driving or operating heavy equipment such is the case with a delivery service or general contractor. To the extent that employees need to use the cell phone while driving, such as in the case of a sales company, then mandating that only use of the Bluetooth to make and receive business calls will be permitted.
5. General areas for setting limits as to the use of cell phones. A cell phone policy may also limit the use of employee cell phones to either lunchtime or break periods. The policy should also stipulate as to the length of any calls and the policy should also carve out limited exceptions to the cell phone policy in the event of a family or medical emergency as examples. Additionally, it would be wise to restrict the use of cell phones for game playing and other assorted activities.
6. Defining cell phone etiquette in your corporate policies. We have all been subject to this either in public or private. Someone is talking too loud on their phone or is using vulgarity. Not much you can do about it. As an employer has a policy that minimizes disruptions and helps keep the peace is something you can attempt to control. Many employers have set policies as to the use of vulgarity, length of calls, banning cell phone camera pictures unless at a corporate function, or by permission of the employer.
7. Make sure that your cell phone policy is consistent with your social media policy. Suffice to say, that your company's cell phone policy and social media policy are, to a large extent, one of the same. Make sure that when you develop your cell phone policy that you make it consistent with any existing social media policy.
8. Enforce all of the policies and to do so consistently and evenly. As with any company policy, enforcement and even-handedness are required in enforcing cell phone restrictions. Any violations of the policy must be subject to the disciplinary rules of the business. You must make sure to document all such discussions with any employee and provide written warning and final warning before any termination.
Whether you like it or not, cell phones in the American workplace are here to stay. Although a device-less environment might be your workplace ideal it is no longer a realistic expectation. Since 95 percent of Americans now own a cell phone the need for all businesses to come around to the permanence of this technology is imperative. The Katz Law Group can assist your company in this area by crafting specific policies that fit your company's specific needs and expectations while allowing your employees to continue to have the freedom to communicate. Please give us a call at 508-480-8202 for further information on setting up your new policy.