Controlling Employee Use of Mobile Devices
It is stating the obvious to say that mobile devices – phones and tablets – are a major part of every part of life. We have all embraced technology and continue to expand its use throughout our lives, both personal and business. We connect, share, shop, play, socialise, exchange, explain, inform, learn, promote, sell and expand our businesses through the use of mobile devices. In fact, there are likely many in your business who weren’t even born before the mobile phone was commonplace.
The upside of mobile devices is obvious, but as with many good things, there is a downside and the use of mobile devices in the workplace has become a major issue for business and one which is attracting plenty of discussion and action both in Australia and overseas.
The bottom line is, the use of mobile devices in the workplace, especially for personal use, is most likely effecting your bottom line.
Key Factors for Consideration
Safety issues are critical when it comes to the use of mobile phones. Whether it is a business-supplied phone and used for business purposes or personal phone for personal use, using a mobile device can increase the risk of accidents, cause distractions, interrupt others and effects productivity. What would the cost of a workplace injury cost your business?
For workers operating machinery, forklifts, driving and other equipment, the use of mobile devices of course should simply be banned, that is just common sense. But what of say a worker who removes safety gloves or helmet to take a call from the boss. Or using a device to report a workplace emergency or employees legitimately relying on their mobile phones for family emergencies.
If the business provides employees with mobile phones, is that implying that they can use that phone at any time, for any purpose during business hours?
How can you keep tabs on the amount of time that staff use their mobiles for personal use, social media – it only takes a few seconds when your back is turned to send a text.
What is the cost to your business in lost productivity of all the hours that staff spend on personal mobile usage?
What Others Experience
John Hadfield of Control Zone Consulting, addresses this issue with his clients and relates the experiences of a number of his SME clients. Experiences which most likely echo your own thoughts.
“The most popular response was time concerns with several clients saying that the use of mobiles was out of control in their workplace and wasting many hours of productive time each week,” John said. “Another reported one person in particular who walks through the factory while talking to his partner on his mobile. Not only is this a safety issue but it sends a signal to other staff that this practice is acceptable.”
John relayed other examples including a company that even after installing hands-free devices in company vehicles, staff were still receiving fines for using the device while driving. But the biggest eye opener was a business that made the effort and adopted a rule of ‘fairness’.
“With a small, friendly staff, when their request to use mobiles only in emergencies resulted in a waste of time, this business went so far as to insist that staff hand in their mobiles on arrival at work and can retrieve them for use during breaks,” John recalled. “The response was disrespectful and showed a lack of trust as many staff simply purchased a second phone which they kept hidden and suddenly took a lot more comfort breaks!”
Adopting a Mobile Policy
The growing worldwide trend is for businesses to treat the use of mobile devices as they do with other inappropriate behaviour and adopt a formal mobile phone policy as part of their employee manual.
“My advice to businesses is if you don’t have a written mobile phone policy, then get one,” John Hadfield said.
An online search will give you thousands of references for mobile phone/device policies as a starting point for developing a policy to suit your business and plenty of food for thought.
“When developing a mobile phone policy, I recommend businesses consider the people, the workplace and the policy in that order,” John said. “If you aim for an aggressive, restrictive approach on these types of personal items, it is highly likely this will result in a raft of problems.”
John advises that, especially for small to medium businesses as we have in Macarthur, that the mobile phone policy be developed in a consultative manner with staff as having a general consensus will lead to the best outcome.
Mobile Phone Policy Guidelines
Sourced from a number of references, here a few guidelines for you to consider:
• Include all communication devices for personal use, not just mobile phones and tablets. Staff can also use your computers for their social networking.
• Rather than a total ban, the policy should allow for appropriate and acceptable restrictions. It may contravene workplace laws to not allow workers the ability to receive emergency calls from family.
• Consider your business culture and style of operation.
• Ensure the policy extends to contractors as well as employees at your workplace.
• The policy should be written and enforceable, with penalties clearly stated.
• Establish a workable balance between the positive upsides to the use of mobile devices in your business and the costs and risks of their use.
Every business is different and will need to develop its own individual policy. While there are mobile phone policy templates easily accessible online, it is advisable to consider each aspect in relation to your specific workplace. Is it workable? Is it appropriate? Will it be accepted?
Mobile devices definitely pose a risk in the workplace and the cost of a workplace accident can mean disaster for a business. The loss of productivity can equally cause disaster. But the use of mobile technology continues to be a key factor in business growth and as such, this is an issue which will only continue to grow if not dealt with effectively.
John Hadfield, Control Zone Consulting, has been very active in business innovation and improvement from creating and building his own business in 1972 to selling both his companies, one locally and one internationally in 2001 – all the time developing trademarks, patents and copyrights and continually building innovative business processes. John’s businesses have been accredited to the prestigious Australian Government Australian Technology Showcase in several areas including Innovation development in Sign and Aluminium Systems and Software development. He has a broad knowledge-based business background and has held the most senior corporate roles locally and internationally and mentors and advises small businesses.