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Should you Allow Cellphones at Work?

Are you constantly telling your employees to put their cell phones away? Cell phone use by employees on work time has the potential to impact your bottom line through poor customer service and a decrease in productivity. Not to mention the disruptions from loud ringtones and personal conversations, which can frustrate other employees as well as your customers. In this age of endless connectivity, most people use their personal cellphones occasionally at work, while on the other hand, they can recall a time when they’ve waited to be served by someone distracted by their phone. So, where does the balance lie for employers who must weigh safety and customer service concerns, but also want to create an environment where workers don’t feel policed?

As a society, we know we have become attached to our phones. To combat this, some employers have imposed hard rules on the use of cell phones in the workplace by banning cell phone use all together. Other employers have found ways to allow cell phone use and have it benefit their businesses, such as allowing videos and pictures of their business to be shared and posted on their social media for advertising, but this does not apply to all employers. As to what is the right choice, that is up to you. Most governments are remaining silent on the issue of cellphone use, leaving it up to employers to decide what is appropriate in their own workplaces. Either way, a written policy that employees must read, and sign is crucial to enforcing cell phone use in the workplace. When you verbally issue rules or don’t have a written document, you give employees the opportunity to interpret the rules or claim that they never received them. A detailed policy written in clear, straight-forward language that outlines all rules and potential disciplinary actions is less open to interpretation and protects your business. But keep in mind, whatever policy you create, your management must follow as well.

Some ideas that you could use with regards to cell phone use are:

  • Set specific rules to allow cell phones to only be used for business-related practices. For example, if you work in hairdressing, allow staff to post pictures of their work on their social media accounts and respond to booking requests and work emails only.

  • Offer a short break each hour, not unlike a smoke break, for staff to go to a separate area to check their phones.

  • Allow employees to give their work phone number to their families so they can still be reached quickly in emergencies.

  • Setting boundaries such as usage limitations by limiting personal usage to breaks, non-business meals and emergencies.

  • Issuing a cell phone ban on the entire premises or only in certain areas.

  • No personal cell phone use if driving company vehicles. This goes without saying as it is illegal without a handsfree device but should be included.

If an employee breaks the rules, it is important to follow-through with disciplinary action. It shows the employee and the rest of your staff that you’re committed to your policy. Your employees will be less likely to break the rules if they know that you are enforcing the consequences. Using reminders, such as posting copies of your policy and hanging signs in areas where you permit or ban cell phone usage will make it difficult for employees to forget or claim ignorance when they break the rules.


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