Cell Phones in the Workplace

Many places of business have signs posted requesting patrons silence phones or conduct calls outside. But what about employees? Are business owners being as clear with their staff about what is and is not acceptable? The following statistics tell us that cell phones are a huge part of daily life. How are cell phones affecting your workplace?

  • In 2011, U.S. wireless consumers sent and received an average of 6.3 billion text messages per day.
  • At year-end 2011, the average U.S. wireless consumer used 945 minutes a month.
  • Almost half (49.7%) of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones.
  • Average Americans spend 2.7 hours a day “socializing” on a mobile device.

These facts and figures tell business owners and managers several important things. Americans are using their cell phones constantly. Not only are they talking, but they are also texting and using social networking apps. This means if your employees are normal, average Americans, they are probably using their phones during the time you are paying them to work. This cuts into productivity which cuts into your bottom line. Employees are not permitted to use a landline to chat with friends and family or cruise Facebook on their computers. Using their mobile device is the equivalent. Not only is cell phone usage a misappropriation of company time, but it also reflects poorly on the business to see employees using their cell phones. The best way to put a stop to employees abusing their phones in the workplace is to spell out your policy in the employee handbook.

When evaluating your company’s cellphone policy, several factors should be taken into consideration. The first is, when and where can cell phones be used? Some employers may decide that none may be used on company premises or company time. For example, when it is a safety issue or when they can affect sensitive equipment, like a driver or hospital employee. Others may decide that cell phones are only appropriate when staff is on a break in designated staff-only areas. This is the most common approach. The third option is cell phones are allowed only when all other work is done. For example, a restaurant on a slow night or by a parking lot attendant. Once parameters have been established, the next step is to decide on the consequences if an employee is not following the rules. The best option is an established system of documented verbal and written warnings, with termination being the end result. It is very important to go over the rules you choose to implement with your staff. Also, make an addendum to the employee handbook that every person signs. If employees complain, a simple explanation that time is money should suffice. The more productive employees are, the more income is generated, and the better that is for everyone.

Don’t allow your employees to waste valuable time and money on their cell phones. If the issue is not addressed, it is easy for them to claim ignorance if it does become a problem. Explaining the company’s position on cell phones in the workplace before it becomes a personnel issue is good business sense and can save time and energy that is better used elsewhere.

–CTIA-The Wireless Association, CTIA’s Wireless Industry Indices: Semi-Annual Data Survey Results, A Comprehensive Report from CTIA Analyzing the U.S. Wireless Industry, Year-End 2011 Results, 2012

— Roger Entner, Recon Analytics, The Wireless Industry: The Essential Engine of US Economic Growth (2012)

— Nielson Mobile Insights

— Digital Buzz Blog