Smartphones have become a necessity for so many people all over the world. They have evolved so that they not only provide users with the means to instant communication but these gadgets are also amazing productivity tools with so many functions. In one single device, you can make phone calls, take a video call, send emails, surf the internet, take photos and videos, use a calculator, check the weather forecast, update your calendar, and do so much more.
However, while smartphones are undeniably a significant addition to daily life, one primary concern is the amount of time people spend on these mobile devices, including during the time they’re supposed to be working.
According to a CareerBuilder survey, 55% of employers cited smartphone use as the biggest productivity killer in the workplace. The same study found that 82% of smartphone owners admit to keeping their phones within eye contact at work. While these numbers may be enough to rationalise a strict smartphone ban, doing so is not quite sensible.
With the majority of employees owning smartphones, asking everyone to follow a zero-smartphone policy from nine to five may not go well with your employees, especially with the younger ones who are more inclined to feel slighted that they are being micromanaged.
So how do you create a smartphone policy that will efficiently address distractions and productivity concerns? Here are some pointers that could help you in the process of creating the policy.
Do not apply a one-size-fits-all policy
Do you need an office smartphone policy ASAP? You can do a quick Google search and print a downloadable template in just a matter of minutes. That may be the easy way out but it’s not really the most effective way to moderate smartphone usage in your workplace.
Always keep in mind that what may work for one company may not necessarily work for yours. Different types of business operations require a different set of guidelines. For example, it would not make sense to apply the same phone rules to a manufacturing business and a tech startup. When employees operate heavy machinery, using a smartphone may actually be a matter of life and death, so it makes sense not to allow any smartphone usage near the manufacturing floor.
However, in a tech company, having smartphones throughout the day may be something natural, if not essential. In relation to this, your smartphone policy should also take into consideration which of your employees need to use smartphones during working hours in relation to their tasks. An employee in charge of social media marketing for your business would need to use a smartphone quite heavily during work hours as compared to your accountant who would really have no business with a smartphone This is the reason why issuing a blanket statement such as “No smartphones during working hours” won’t work in every situation.
Identify specific concerns and create guidelines to address them
In order for you to address the problems with the smartphone usage in your workplace, it’s important to actually note down what the specific issues are. Do you find that your employees keep chatting and texting on their phones during meetings? Are there people who spend hours making lengthy personal phone calls the entire workday? Maybe you have employees who would rather play Candy Crush instead of finishing their deadlines?
When you specify these situations, it will be easier to draft a set of guidelines that employees could follow. It also ensures that these rules are tailor-made to your business activities and not just generic boilerplate statements.
Provide concrete examples of rules to avoid misunderstandings
Company policies are created as guidelines for employees to follow and make them aware of what is deemed acceptable by the management while at the workplace. While most of these policies aim to clarify rules of conduct, having a vague set of protocols can cause further confusion and even conflicts.
When creating your smartphone policy, being detailed and providing examples will help prevent misunderstandings. If there are employees exempted from the rules due to work-related tasks, identify these employees and explain why so that people won’t think you’re playing favouritism or being unfair.
Provide particular examples or explanations when writing up a guideline. If a business operates in a large workplace, specify which areas smartphones are not allowed such as manufacturing areas, sales showrooms, conference rooms, etc. If your employees are using company-issued smartphones, you can limit what types of activities they can do with their device. Clearly outline what you consider as personal smartphone usage versus work-related smartphone use.
When writing a rule, just saying
“Use of personal smartphones is not allowed from 9 am to 5pm inside the workplace”
is not detailed enough. It does not address whether employees can use phones during their coffee breaks in the office or what the rules are in cases of emergency.
Instead, you can expand the statement by saying,
“Use of personal smartphones during work hours will only be allowed in the following instances: a) lunch and break times b) to receive or make emergency phone calls. Use of social media apps, messaging, gaming, and other applications should be avoided during working hours. Only the following employees will be exempted from this policy (enumerate employees)”
Initiate a dialogue with your employees to communicate the policy
Once you have drafted your smartphone policy, don’t just stuff it in a memo and send a bulk email to all the employees. While having it written down and sent to everyone in the company is advisable, you should also schedule a personal meeting with all your employees to introduce and explain the policy.
During the discussion, communicate why you feel that these rules will be beneficial not only to the company but to the employees as well. If there are exceptions, clarifications, or any important points, this will be the time to explain them. At this point you should also explain what the repercussions are if employees fail to follow the rules.
Expect that there will be questions so you should be ready to address these during the meeting. Be open to suggestions but don’t change the policy to accommodate all the concerns immediately. Enforce a one-month trial period and inform your employees that the policy will be reviewed again and necessary adjustments will be applied moving forward.
When enforcing your new smartphone policy, it is very critical to be consistent. Don’t send mixed messages by turning a blind eye today, and then being extra strict tomorrow. Make sure that every employee understands that the company is taking these rules seriously. It is also important to treat everyone fairly when enforcing the policy to avoid having disgruntled employees.
Creating an efficient smartphone policy
Smartphones are often considered as invaluable tools that help you in your work and in your personal daily tasks. However, heavy use of smartphones can also be a cause of distraction and could affect business productivity in general. Implementing an efficient smartphone policy that is sensitive to the needs of employees and that’s enforced consistently can be a useful method to eliminate these distractions. It could potentially improve your productivity, as well as the work output of your employees.