Please Hang Up the Phone!

I wonder if the inventor of the cell phone had any idea that their forethought would change the world. I see people all over with this device attached to their ear (and sometimes at very inopportune times!). Personally, I only have a cell phone and no land line which seems to be becoming more the norm. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without my cell – I use it for calls, email, Twitter and of course to play games! Cell phones have revolutionized our lives, for sure, and probably one of the most impacted places is the business world. Everyone at work seems to have a cell phone either issued by their employer or for their personal use. These personal cell phones are causing a ruckus in some workplaces and policing their use and the policy governing their use can be a real pain for management and HR.

One of the advantages of landlines at work is the relative ease of call reporting and monitoring. It is pretty easy to see when an employee uses a work phone for personal use. And it is even easier for a manager to view an employee using their work phone for calls. Now with cell phones, an employee can be on personal calls on their personal cell phone and the employer would have no way of monitoring this use. The best plan – have a policy governing cell phone use.

Cell phone policies, like the technology they cover, are forever changing. Just when you get your policy to where you want it another option becomes available and another policy loophole opens. So don’t get too used to your policy!

First thing is to determine what usage is appropriate and what isn’t. For example, some employers have a zero tolerance viewpoint to cell phone usage in the workplace. Others may have designated cell phone areas (and designated NO cell phone areas). And others still may allow business cell calls only in the workplace and require personal calls be taken outside or in another area. I know some employers who tried to allow a certain amount of time a day for cell calls and it turned out to be a nightmare to monitor. A time limit could be placed on how long each call takes, but this may be excessive “big brother” behavior by the employer. I mean, these are adults who work for us, right?

Be prepared to address the issue of an employee making or receiving a cell phone call while at work if your company wants to curtail personal cell usage in the workplace. How will this employee be required to take the call, if they chose to? Will they need to use break time? How will emergencies be handled?

The best policies are easy and unilateral. Meaning they are clearly delineated and pertain to all. For example – personal cell calls may only be made and/or received in the break room. This works fine until a complaint crosses your desk that so and so “is texting at their desk all day long”. Then the cell phone policy might need to be tweaked to add texting. Ideally, your cell phone policy should apply to the device and not the action. Then, inevitably, someone pulls out their cell phone to listen to the music they have downloaded. This employee tells you their phone is their MP3 player. Ugh – what to do now? You normally allow employees to listen to music while they work; in fact many use MP3 players. How should this factor in to the cell phone policy?

The answer is – it depends on your workplace. Figure out what works best for you and then draft a policy to meet your needs. Note that I said draft, because you will likely be changing it again. Welcome to the quagmire mess of cell phone policy making! I hope this blog is as clear as mud.

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!


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