Is Cell Phone Usage Reducing Office Productivity?

By December 11, 2018 December 21st, 2018 Best Practices

Cell phone usage in the workplace is at an all-time high, and evidence is mounting that employee cell phone use causes unwanted distractions in the office. In a 2015 study by CareerBuilder, 44% of business leaders ranked cell phone usage as the number one productivity killer—placing it atop the list of workplace distractions. Yet, many company leaders struggle to manage cell phone usage effectively. Here’s a simple solution.

Unless workers need their cellphones to perform a company sanctioned job or task, mandate that phones stay in workers’ cars. If they don’t drive, offer to store them during the workday. This eliminates the need for the business owner or manager to police usage. Back up the requirement with a clear written policy that states cell phone usage on company time is prohibited unless it is for bona fide company business.

Strict cell phone usage policies are especially important in industries where workers are

  • Responsible for the safety of others (daycare facilities, hospitals, etc.)
  • Performing a job that could potentially be hazardous (e.g. manufacturing line workers; mechanics).

When Cell Phone Usage IS the Job

Cell Phone Usage on the JobFor those whose jobs require cell phone use, the situation is a bit more complex, but policies should still clarify that personal use is not allowed. The waters become even murkier if the cell phones in question are “BYOD”—bring your own device, where workers provide their own cell phones for company work.

Owning a phone does not give any worker the right to waste company time with it. However, with BYOD, company leaders must also outline the rights of both workers and the organization regarding digital property.

  • Policies should outline whether workers can store company information on phones and, if so, how that data will be treated in the event of theft or loss. (Solutions are available to partition both corporate and BYOD phones to secure company data without impacting personal information. However, these platforms can be complex to manage and maintain.)
  • Policies should also state what rights workers can expect regarding personal mobile data and/or activities, including:
    • Whether the company will wipe or protect personal data n the event of loss;
    • If the organization will conduct phone surveillance or require monitoring software on personal phones.

In many states, organizations have considerable latitude regarding employee-owned mobile devices, but the criteria that allow it vary. We won’t get into the specifics of mobile data storage or privacy here, but these are issues every business owner should think about.