Operating a business in the digital age means accommodating personal technologies such as cell phones, which can be helpful tools in the workplace, particularly in some industries. Mobile phones, when properly used can keep employers more connected to their employees and spark innovations. They can also, however, pose as significant sources of distraction and lost productivity. The best way to take advantage of all the potential benefits of cell phones at work while minimizing the drawbacks is to create a strong workplace cell phone usage policy.
State Your Policy Clearly
An ambiguous, hidden, or difficult-to-find cell phone policy won’t help anyone. Make your policy known by putting it in writing. Put it in your employee handbook and send it to employees in an email blast. Express your policy using clear, direct language that leaves no room for misinterpretation. Apply your policy consistently, with no exceptions. Establishing and enforcing your policy is important to shield your company from poor employee performance and phone-related lawsuits.
Address Your Liabilities
A good cell phone policy won’t only keep your workers on task, it also protects your company from security breaches, accidents, injuries, and other liabilities. Include provisions in your policy that protect sensitive company information, such as personal data, trade secrets, and passwords. Banning camera phones in some areas, for example, can help protect your company but be mindful of NLRA protections that provide employees the right to record workplace conditions in the context of protected concerted activity. Mobile phone usage must be prohibited in inappropriate or dangerous situations, such as when operating heavy machinery, driving, in laboratories, or at construction sites (absent the aforementioned and limited NLRA protections).
Set Limits for Personal Phone Use
You can’t always prevent employees from bringing cell phones to work. Try to work with your team by permitting some use of phones for personal reasons at appropriate times and places. Permit personal calls and texts during break or lunchtime, for example. You may choose not to allow personal use during work hours or in the office, as it may distract others. Allowing some personal time on phones can keep employees happy and increase the odds of policy observation during no-phone times.
Address Cell Phone Usage by Non-Exempt Employees
If your non-exempt employees have company-provided cell phones or access to business e-mail on their personal cell phones, you should have policies in place that address usage outside of work hours. Doing so will get you in front of any overtime issues.
Certain common-sense rules that you should include in your mobile phone policy include:
- Phones should be silenced during meetings, when serving clients, and in shared workspaces;
- If personal phone calls are permitted during non-break hours, they should be brief and taken in a place where they will not disturb others;
- Discriminatory, offensive, defamatory or prejudicial language will not be tolerated;
- Prohibit mobile phone usage while driving, operating machinery, at construction sites, and in any other situation where machinery or hazardous conditions are present;
- Use of mobile-phone cameras is not permitted unless there are specific work-related exceptions (e.g. taking photos for social media posting) or the recording is used to record workplace conditions for purposes of protected concerted activity
Get Help with Your Cell Phone Usage Policy
Simon | Paschal PLLC provides consulting on a variety of human resources matters. We can help businesses create effective, strong, legally sound cell phone usage policies. Contact us today to discuss your unique needs during a free consultation.