Phone Ban in the Office: Efficiency Vs. Mutiny

Posted on November 15, 2013 by

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I recently made a sales call to a large corporation which was bought out by an even larger company. My contact was the administrative assistant to the CEO who had been with the company 25 years. I loved going to see Gloria. She’s a tough no-holds barred type of Philly girl with a lot of street smarts. I was surprised when she greeted me without her usual smile and light banter. It seems the new management had implemented some new rules that weren’t popular with Gloria. The sign said, “Employees please leave your cell phone in your vehicle. No cell phones permitted beyond this point.” She pointed to it. “If you know anyone looking for an old goat like me, let me know,” she half-joked. “I didn’t sign up for prison life.”

Before meeting with Gloria, I had never considered the effects of banning cell phones in an office. They have become a part of the culture and I can’t imagine being too far from my own. It would be like losing a limb not to have it. That said; the idea is growing on me — sort of.

The Cell Phone Distraction
I often have walked in on dispatchers and reservationists playing on their cell phones or sending text messages. Some are talking on them. Most are not doing it blatantly when the boss is around, but when the cat’s away they are out and in use.

Today, cell phones are not just communications devices but rather entertainment centers. Books, movies and TV programs can be downloaded onto them. You can use them to surf the Internet, get email, play games and even act as a GPS. Ask any kid what he is doing on a smartphone and he’ll show you the latest app.

Cell phones are obviously distractions on the job. When your staff is using personal phones, they are not working. Legally, you must provide breaks which are the appropriate times for employees to use their phones, but this is not the norm in most offices. I was shocked to hear a loud ring tone in my office playing an offensive song. My staff just laughed when they heard it but I was offended by the foul language. I recognized the need for a policy that would shield my business from the risks of personal cell phones in the office.  

Camera Phones
Camera phones are yet another level of problems. Rights to privacy vary among states. Camera phones create risks to sensitive company information and trade secrets.
I remember doing airport checks of chauffeurs. One of my chauffeurs was lounging in a seat sound asleep when we came upon him. The flight he was waiting for was delayed an hour and he took the opportunity to catch a cat nap.
I took a photo from my phone of the unsuspecting man to use later when doing training. But think about this: What photos are being taken when the subject doesn’t know it is occurring? Are you at risk if photos at work are posted on social media sites? How about when a reservationist takes a picture of the overweight electrician showing his low-slung dungarees in your office and puts it on Facebook? Above the man is the company logo on your wall loudly promoting your brand. New case law is being written daily about candid photos being posted on social media sites. Avoid the hassle and just ban camera phone use in the office.

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