Five top tips for dealing with smartphones in the workplace

>Hayley Trovato, a Senior Associate Solicitor in our Employment department, has given her five top tips for dealing with the use of smartphones in the workplace.

She commented after the Prospect union said that an increasingly wide range of employers are asking employees to hand over their smartphones before starting work.

“Given the ubiquity of smartphones in modern life and their near-addictive properties, it is little wonder they are becoming a source of conflict between employers and employees.

“However, good practice can mitigate the chances of conflict arising. Having a clear policy on the use of mobile phones in the workplace means that situations such as this can be avoided easily. If employees know what to expect from the outset, then there can be no surprises, reducing areas where problems could arise,” said Hayley.

She added: “As with all policies, there need to be communicated clearly to employees, so they know they exist. They should also be applied fairly and consistently.”

Hayley suggested five top tips for employers dealing with smartphones in the workplace, noting that the applicability of each will vary according to the nature of the work an organisation is engaged in:

  1. Set clear boundaries as to if and when smartphone use is permitted. This could either be a total ban on employees having their smartphones on them at all or just limiting their use to break and lunchtimes. This decision with often depend on the nature of the work. If you do have a total ban on employees having their phones, then you should offer a safe place for employees to store them, such as a locker and ensure that the employee can be contacted by family members on another number in the event of an emergency.
  2. It may sound obvious but if an employee needs to take a personal call, then they should leave the room and do this in a separate area. Taking the occasional call may be necessary and as urgent situation often arise, but having employees catching up with their friends on their phone during work time is not acceptable.
  3. If you do let employees have their phones on them, then stress that phones should be on silent, vibrate or switched off. This will minimise the disruption of having a variety of noisy ringtones blaring out throughout the office.
  4. In some jobs, being on a mobile phone can pose a health and safety risk – such as while driving or operating machinery. For those jobs where employees are dealing directly with customers, being on a mobile phone is not good customer service.
  5. Be clear about employees spending time going on to the internet via their phone. The occasional email may be acceptable and sometimes necessary but prolonged periods spent on Instagram or doing online shopping is not.
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