How To Combat Cell Phone Use At Work (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar
Jan. 25, 2021
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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While cell phones are useful tools in the workplace, excessive usage and abuse can lead to distracted and unproductive employees.

Surveys have consistently shown that supervisors consider cell phone abuse as the number one reason for unproductive workers.

For this reason, it’s essential to construct cell phone usage policies for your organization that are both fair and effective in preventing abuse.

This article will explain what a cell phone usage policy is and the benefits of creating one. You’ll also learn how to effectively enforce them and read a sample policy to help you draft your own.

What Is a Cell Phone Usage Policy?

A cell phone usage policy is a company policy that dictates the etiquette and limitations that employees must follow when using their mobile devices.

Examples of cell phone usage etiquette rules that you might lay out in such a policy include:

  • Taking personal calls in private

  • Avoiding offensive language such as swearing

  • Not using cell phone cameras (to protect the privacy of all employees)

  • Keeping calls short

  • Silencing ringtones and setting incoming calls to vibration-only.

  • Texting or emailing rather than speaking when possible

Examples of cell phone limitations you might require include no usage:

  • During conferences and training sessions

  • When employees are speaking with clients

  • When employees are operating heavy equipment

  • While driving

Cell phone usage policies also commonly define other related rules, such as:

  • How cell phones should be stored, such as out of sight in a desk drawer.

  • The length and frequency of calls allowed during work.

  • When employees are perfectly free to use their phones, such as during lunch break or when speaking to international clients.

  • If headsets are allowed.

  • Emergency situations when other cell phone usage restrictions don’t apply

The Benefits of Having a Cell Phone Usage Policy

Widespread excessive cell phone usage by your employees can harm your business in a number of ways, including:

  • Diminished productivity. The adverse effects of cell phone abuse on workplace productivity have been well researched.

    Nearly half of all surveyed employers report that smartphone-related slacking off diminishes their employees’ quality of work.

    27% of employers note cell phone usage as the leading cause for missed deadlines, and 26% state it as the reason for lost revenue.

    Cell phones are an irreplaceable tool in the workplace for conducting quick research and sending important emails, but that doesn’t mean you can’t regulate and limit their usage so that it doesn’t get out of hand.

  • Reduced safety. If your employees work with heavy equipment or in any kind of environment with possible safety hazards, you absolutely need to set a cell phone usage policy.

    Thousands of workers in the United States each year are harmed or killed due to cell phone-related negligence on the job.

    Not only may employees become injured, but you could be legally liable for damages. Even if you aren’t liable, you’ll still likely have to fight off a lawsuit.

  • Damage to reputation. If a single employee inappropriately uses their cell phone with a client, the incident could leave them with a lasting impression of your entire company. You could potentially lose the client’s business altogether.

    Rather than taking the risk and assuming that none of your employees would make such a mistake, it’s safer to create a policy that’ll eliminate or at least reduce the chance.

  • Weakened security. Intentionally or not, employees may expose sensitive company information to the outside world.

    Many messaging apps are not secure and aren’t channels that you want your employees to be chatting through during work.

    Even a seemingly innocent selfie taken at work could expose information in the background.

    Security is even more important if your company is a government contractor or subcontractor. If you make any slip-ups and sensitive information is released, your business could face fines or lose valuable contracts.

  • Utility expenses. Employees that are always on their phones could increase your company’s internet costs.

    If a few individuals are hogging up most of the network’s bandwidth, it could also make it slower and harder to use for employers who need to use the internet legitimately.

  • Strain between supervisors and employees. If you don’t have a standard cell phone usage policy, individual supervisors may take it into their own hands and create their own.

    These could be excessive and unfair, leading to employees who complain or aren’t able to use their phones for reasonable purposes.

    They could also be too relaxed and ineffective.

    It’s a better idea to sit down, create an effective and reasonable cell phone policy, and implement it company-wide.

Tips for Implementing a Cell Phone Usage Policy

Your job isn’t finished once you’ve written up a cell phone usage policy. You need to effectively implement and enforce it as well.

Here are some key tips to help you do so:

  • Communicate and train. The first step to policy implementation is to make sure your employees are aware of the changes.

    You can’t hold your workers to any new expectations if you haven’t clearly communicated with them.

    Even though cell phone policies are common at most companies, you can’t assume that all employees will know. This is especially the case for interns and employees working their first job.

    A brief training session is a great way to bring everyone on board and detail the company’s cell phone rules.

    You could also hang up some graphics and posters around the office to remind employees.

    Don’t forget to add the policy changes to your employee handbook.

  • Lead by example. Employees will never respect or follow rules that are inconsistently applied.

    If you restrict your workers from using phones outside of lunch or set a dress policy, then hold yourself to the same standard.

    If you come off as a hypocrite, then not only will your employees ignore the cell phone usage policy, but your working relationship with them could be harmed in every other respect as well.

  • Enforce your policy. Excessive cell phone use is typically a habit that individuals need to break out of.

    If you don’t consistently enforce your new policy, employees will find themselves browsing their phones even if they agree that they probably shouldn’t.

    Follow through on the disciplinary actions written in your cellphone usage policy.

    If employees make repeat offenses, you might need to have a more serious conversation with them and discuss how the problem can be solved.

    Although you should consistently enforce your company’s cell phone policy, refrain from crossing into the realm of micromanagement.

    Don’t hover over your workers and try to “catch” them in the act. Discipline when you find out they’re breaking the rules, but at least afford them a basic level of trust that they’ll control their own actions.

  • Take reasonable disciplinary actions. When deciding how to punish employees who violate your new cell phone usage policy, it’s essential to strike a balance between maintaining fairness and disincentivizing future violations.

    The standard progression is to start with a verbal warning, followed by a written warning and final warning before terminating the employee.

    Make sure to document all discussions and attempts to mutually resolve the problem to reduce the likelihood of legal repercussions.

Sample Company Cell Phone Usage Policy

When reading through our sample policy, note how it includes all the elements we’ve discussed. Make sure that you explicitly write them out as well.

Whether you’re writing a resume or drafting a company policy, you should follow the guidelines that are proven to be effective.

Company Cell Phone Usage Policy

This cell phone usage policy lists our general guidelines for using company and personal devices during work hours.

The intent of this policy is to provide all employees with the advantages cellphones offer while also minimizing the accidents, distractions, and security issues that improper cell phone usage can cause.

Cell Phone Usage Guidelines

Cell phones may not be used when they pose a safety or security risk or interrupt work tasks.

Employees may not use cell phones:

  • When operating a vehicle or heavy equipment.

  • For gaming or browsing the internet during workday hours.

  • During training sessions and conferences.

  • To record or send confidential information.

Additionally, employees should only use their work phones for work-related tasks.

We recognize that cell phones are also useful tools for employees. We allow and encourage their usage:

  • To keep track of work duties.

  • To document work contacts.

  • To conduct work-related research.

  • To schedule and keep track of work appointments.

  • For making/receiving work-related phone calls.

  • For any other work-related communication, such as emailing and text messaging other employees.

Disciplinary Action

Violations of this cell phone usage policy may result in disciplinary action. You will first receive a verbal warning, followed by a written and final warning.

Continued use of cell phones for prohibited purposes may lead to having cell phone privileges revoked or termination.

Cell phone usage for dangerous or illegal activity, to harass other employees, or in any ways that violate our company’s confidentiality policy may also result in employee termination.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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