Is Cell Phone Use Stealing Your Company Time?

Posted on September 24, 2013 by - Also by this author

Is it business or personal? Do you have a policy on office cell phone use?
During a recent editorial meeting of LCT Magazine staffers, we discussed the usage of cell phones by office personnel in our industry. It is a universal problem with no apparent solution. In most business offices, personal cell phone use is completely banned for good reason. The most basic premise is the lost productivity and the fact that you are paying your employee to sit and text with friends and families, browsing social media sites, or worse yet, playing addictive games such as Candy Crush, Words with Friends and Farmville. This is simply not fair to the company. It is the same as taking a ream of paper home in my opinion.

Let me break down the amount of theft that may be occurring. If you pay an employee $10 an hour, then each minute is valued at 17 cents. Let’s say an employee uses a cell phone four times an hour with each text session lasting three minutes. That’s 68 cents wasted each hour. That doesn’t seem like much. But in a 40-hour week, that’s $27.20 that you paid your employee to handle personal business and not your own. Let’s say you have four employees in the office all doing about the same volume of texting. Now, you are taking a loss of $108.80 per week or $5,657.60 in a year. That’s enough for a down payment on a new car!

Using cell phones at work is also distracting to the employee’s job, making them less attentive. Statistics show that employees make many more mistakes when they are not focused on the task you hired them to do.
I am not an advocate of complete elimination of cell phone use in the office, as is the case at my wife’s workplace. I believe that single parents need to be able to communicate with their children. Some employees have a legitimate work requirement to text with drivers in the field about trip details, traffic problems, time changes, start and ending mileage and the list goes on and on. But how do you decide who can use their phone and who can’t?  How do you know if it is a business text or personal? I’m not about to say, “Let me see your phone” as that would be a complete privacy invasion.
I realize I have the same problem in my own office. I don’t know how to stop it other than relying on employees to self-police themselves and resist the urge to use their phones while on the clock. My colleague, Linda Jagiela, is working on a much broader feature article to tackle this topic and perhaps we will adopt new policies once this situation has been aired within the industry. 
So, join in on this blog and tell me how you handle cell phone use in your office. What do you think is excessive? Working together with peers in the industry, we should be able to come up with a fair and reasonable policy to recognize the role of cell phones in life and learn to spot abuse of employees continually stealing time from the company and degrading their work performance at the same time.

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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