Do you allow staff to use their mobiles at work?

The excessive use of mobile phones at work can cause managers to pull their hair out in frustration.

If employees are constantly on their mobile phones at work, it can have many negative effects including:

  • Impacting employees’ productivity and performance.
  • Irritating colleagues and annoy customers.
  • Making acclaimed actors get out of character and berate members of the audience mid-performance!

The best way to tackle this issue is to have a clear policy in place which sets out all the rules concerning the permitted use of mobiles phones in the workplace.

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Below are some top things you need to consider.

Restrict when mobiles can be used

You may wish to restrict the use of mobile phones to lunch or rest breaks or to deal with an emergency that cannot wait until the end of the day.

You should also think about any health and safety considerations. For example, if you have employees who are operating heavy or dangerous machinery, you should not allow them to use their mobile phones as this could lead to serious accidents and injuries.

If you have employees in a retail or customer-facing role, you should also tell them to turn off their phones to avoid complaints from customers. It can be annoying if you are waiting to pay or wish to ask a question and you see a worker just staring at their phone and ignoring their surroundings.

Keep the noise down

Having mobile phones on loud or vibrate mode will alert the employee of a message or call. This can disrupt them, therefore you should emphasise to employees that mobile phones should be kept on silent mode or they should switch them off altogether during the working day. This will also help reduce the noise from the phone affecting other colleagues’ concentration.

Decide where phones should be stored

You should have rules on whether employees should be allowed to keep their phone in their pockets or on their desks, or whether they must have them leave them in a locker room, staff room or a place where they can store their other belongings.

Leave the room to make a call

If an employee needs to make a call of a personal nature, you should encourage them to do so in a quiet area to avoid disturbing colleagues.

Turn off during meetings

Inform employees that they should not use mobiles in meetings which can disrupt the flow of the meeting. If you are having a team meeting, there is nothing worse than someone focusing on their phone and not paying any attention to the important topics of the day.

Take care when driving

For any employees that drive as part of their work duties, you must make sure they realise they should not make or receive calls, while driving. They should switch it off and make all calls go to voicemail. Alternatively, if there is a passenger, they can answer or make calls on their behalf. If they do need to use their mobile phone, they should pull over and stop in a safe place, turn off the engine and make or receive the call.

Reiterate that they must comply with this legal duty; otherwise, they may end up facing disciplinary proceedings. If they repeatedly breach this policy, this may result in dismissal.

You should also make sure that work practices do not pressurise staff to use their phone while driving. And that any unsafe driving practices are challenged.

You can read more about mobile phones at work and driving here.

Do not allow misuse

If you do provide an employee with a mobile phone in order to perform their duties, make it clear that it is the property of the company. It can be withdrawn and it must be returned when their employment ends. If you consider that an employee is misusing their phone by making excessive personal calls, you can ask them to meet the costs of any non-business related calls.

Tell your employees the rules

Make sure that you communicate the rules to employees. It is considered good practice to get your employees to sign a form clearly stating that they have read and understood the policy. Make sure the policy is easily accessible to them.

Enforce the policy about mobile phones at work

Having rules is great, but you also need to make sure that you enforce them. Constantly letting employees send a quick text here and there will send out the wrong message and they will think that, despite the policy, they can use their mobile as they wish.

Be fair and consistent

Make sure you apply the policy in a fair and consistent manner. This is to avoid employee concerns, a negative impact on team morale and discrimination claims. Do not let off your best work friend for being glued to their phone, but discipline the worker you don’t have much in common with. It is likely that an Employment Tribunal would find this unfair and potentially discriminatory.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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