Should Your Employees Be Allowed to Have Their Mobile Phones at Work?

By Karyn Ekola, CVPM

Now that the world is run by smartphones, more businesses are putting policies in place on whether or not their employees should be allowed to have theirs with them while on the clock. I have heard a lot of differing opinions on this topic. Some business owners are ok with it, while others require their employees to drop their phones in a drawer as soon as they walk in the door and do not allow them to retrieve them until their lunch break or the end of their shift.

As a practice manager, my personal opinion is that employees should be allowed to have their mobile phones with them. Now before you come at me with torches and pitchforks, I’d like you to consider the following  points:

Personal issues are a distraction and can decrease productivity

Mobile phones are necessary for people to deal with personal issues, which can cause a major distraction and completely derail a person’s focus. Children these days aren’t trained to call their parents at work and many schools communicate to parents through their mobile phones.

If a person is unable to access their phone to check if their sick kid is doing ok with the nanny, or to find out if their mom’s surgery went well, or to receive a call if their kid misses the bus, they will not be focused on their work.  Most likely you are going to see a decrease in productivity. Sometimes a quick 5-minute phone call or text conversation can alleviate the distraction and allow your employee to return to work with a clear, refocused mind.

If you are policing your team’s mobile phone use and forcing them to lock up their phones during working hours, they will feel like they are being treated like children. This is not going to do anything to boost team morale.

Other businesses are sometimes only open the same time that your practice is

The only opportunity someone may have to schedule a dentist or eye doctor appointment may be during your business hours, because the dentist’s or eye doctor’s business hours are the same as yours. Your employees have things they need to schedule or plan for their own personal health or for their family or home life, and oftentimes these can only be accomplished between the hours of 8am-5pm Monday through Friday.

Your employees are on Facebook and Amazon anyway, just maybe not from their phone

Whether you realize it or not, your employees are probably visiting social media sites and shopping online anyway. They are just doing it from a web browser behind your practice management software or from their Apple watch. By allowing them to have their mobile phones, you’re not instantly granting them powers that they aren’t using already on a different channel. It should be ok that they are doing this, as long as they are still getting their job done.

Your doctors are allowed to have their mobile phones

Allowing some employees the right to use their mobile phones but not others creates a double standard. Just because doctors have credentials, doesn’t mean they are higher-performing individuals, or are more responsible than anyone else in your practice.

cat looking at apps on phone

If you are seeing performance issues, there’s probably a larger underlying issue that has nothing to do with mobile phones

There are already things that distract employees from doing their job. Sometimes it’s something as small as the box of donuts in the break room, or a conversation happening about someone’s weekend or vacation. If these distractions are causing performance issues, then you have a larger issue to deal with. If they aren’t causing performance issues, it’s not likely that having mobile phones will either. If an employee’s performance does decline after being allowed to use their mobile phone, it’s very possible that this employee’s performance was lacking to begin with, and you probably just didn’t notice.

If you decide to allow your team to have their mobile phones with them at work, it is important to establish some basic mobile phone etiquette. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Set some expectations up front and write them down. It can be as basic as this:

During business hours, team members are permitted to have their personal mobile phones. However, each employee must agree and abide by the following mobile phone etiquette.

  1. Phones should be set to vibrate and ringtones set to silent.
  2. Client and patient care come first. If you’re working with a client or a patient, you should not be using your mobile phone.
  3. Brief text conversations and personal calls may be taken if necessary. But please take them in private, speak quietly, and keep calls short.
  4. No mobile phone use during team meetings.

Are there circumstances where employees shouldn’t be allowed to have their mobile phones?

Absolutely. You wouldn’t want your doctor to stop to check a text message during the middle of a carnassial extraction or have someone’s phone start ringing during a euthanasia. But during regular day to day hospital activities, there should really be no reason to completely ban mobile phones and cut people off entirely from their personal life.

In this day and age, there really isn’t a clear black and white separation between work and personal life like there used to be. People’s personal lives don’t end between the hours of 8am and 5pm. Being a progressive employer means that you recognize this by allowing your employees to remain connected to their personal lives while they are at work.

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