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How to handle a mobile phone policy at work

12th Mar 2021
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We all rely heavily on our mobile devices. They’re used to connect us with our friends and family, as well as the rest of the world. But are mobile phones a problem at work? It’s important to be very clear with staff when they start working with you what your policy is for phone usage at work. 

Female employee uses her mobile phone at work

Those working in marketing and PR might find restrictions are quite relaxed due to mobile phones often being used for work purposes such as social media. But other jobs such as catering, retail and warehouse jobs could be much more strict for health and safety reasons. Here is how you can make sure to keep staff happy but also ensure productivity and employee safety are the priority.

Have an on show policy

One trending policy that some employers, especially in office environments, have used in recent years is to always have your mobile phone on your desk. This isn’t to discourage staff from using their phone but it’s aim is to ensure if staff are using their phones, they’re doing it where everyone can see. It allows managers to see how much time is being spent using a mobile and that everything is appropriate for an office environment. 

One rule for all

You could easily find yourself facing complaints from staff if they’re not able to use their phones during a shift but others are. Try to keep any policy you enforce company wide. Exceptions could be sales staff at a car dealership for example who are now being encouraged to use Whatsapp and social media to speak with potential customers. Using a mobile phone for work is part of the modern business, but there does need to be a line to prevent misuse and ensure that workplace behaviour remains professional.

Be clear on what is and isn’t acceptable use

Taking personal calls while at work should be considered acceptable use. Emergencies at home can arise and there needs to be a good work-life balance for employees to remain happy. However it is worth raising that if employees wish to make longer personal phone calls then they should use their lunch break. 

Woman has her phone out while working behind a counter

The next part of phone usage that is causing employers and HR headaches is social media. 18-35 year olds spend an average of 2.5 hours a day on their phones. A large chunk of this time is dominated by social media. It might just be 10 minutes here and there but it all adds up. Because of the nature of how social media works, it can be quite addictive. Employees may feel the need to check it throughout the day and be active whilst they’re on the clock. This isn’t something most companies will permit, however if it happens infrequently and doesn’t impact the production of work or create any issues then it is sometimes ignored.

Why some jobs demand stricter regulations

Imagine you’re working on a construction site, your head is down looking at your phone, and your completely engrossed in what you’re reading… Should disaster strike and an object falls on you, your reaction time will likely be too slow to save you from an injury or worse. 

Another example is in health and social care jobs, you might be sneaking into the staff room to check your phone for messages, meanwhile one of your patients has fallen out of bed and is badly hurt. Teachers using their mobile phones on a school trip could lead to a child going missing.

In jobs such as these it is not too much to ask for HR advisors to advocate for a zero tolerance mobile phone policy. You can ofcourse allow staff to use their phones during scheduled breaks, or if they ask permission. But there is a time and place for mobile phones and in jobs that are hazardous or make you responsible for others, you should ensure staff leave mobile phones in the staff room or switch them off.

The positive impact of mobile phones at work

Man using his mobile phone at work

It’s not always a case of staff trying to avoid doing any work. Sometimes after working for an hour straight, 5 minutes on their phone while they make a hot drink is somewhat therapeutic. It can help staff reset and refocus. Studies have shown that short breaks every hour can increase productivity. So when it comes to staff using their ones, don’t always be too quick to give them a slap on the wrist. For a lot of people it’s their way of relaxing.

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