December 12, 2019

Should Employers Ban the Use of Mobile Phones at Work?

It’s December. Emily is engrossed in a WhatsApp group about a Christmas night out with the girls. Mark is frantically ordering Christmas presents for his nieces and nephews. And Ahmed is researching things to do in Prague in preparation for his new year getaway.

We all know productivity plummets in December. But is the use of mobile phones at work fuelling this disengagement?

When it comes to reviewing the use of personal mobile phones at work there are several factors to consider beyond obvious productivity concerns. Does your business process sensitive data? Do you have a robust mobile phone and social media policy? Also, if employees are using personal mobile phones excessively you should question why.

Are smartphones making your employees less productive?

Deloitte surveyed 4,150 British adults in 2017 about their use of smartphones. It probably won’t surprise you that 38% said they thought they were using their smartphone too much.

Do your employees have the self-control needed to refrain from checking their phones the second a notification pops up? And can your employees reach peak levels of concentration with their smartphone beeping and buzzing on their desk?

Using personal mobile phones at work can be a distraction from an employee’s work and in turn detrimental to productivity. If overuse of personal mobile phones is an identifiable problem, then raise it and document it informally to begin with.

What about data security?

If your business deals with sensitive data, you need to think about your data protection obligations. It would be very easy for an employee to take a photo of sensitive data on their personal smartphone.

At Moorepay, many employees process sensitive data. Consequently, we have a policy in place that prohibits the use of personal mobile phones within the main office floor. Employees keep their personal belongings including mobile phones, in individual lockers. They can access their personal mobile phones during breaks and at lunchtime, away from the main office floor. All employees have a direct dial that they can share with family members in case of an emergency.

Which policies should I have in place?

Mobile phone policy

Employers need to consider what is appropriate as a policy and also how it should be implemented.

A policy might state any of the following:

  • Personal phones should be kept in lockers and can be accessed during breaks and lunchtimes
  • Employees must not bring personal phones into meetings
  • Employees must switch personal phones off during working hours

The policy should also state the disciplinary consequences of non-compliance.

Social media policy

If your primary concern is employees browsing social media sites when they should be working, you also need to consider your social media policy.

Without a policy in place, employees may choose to access social media sites via their workplace computer if you decide to ban personal phones.

Most social media policies prohibit employees from accessing social media sites on their company computer. In addition, many businesses block social media access from workplace devices. Others monitor internet usage but employees must be made aware of this.

Ensure alternative contact methods are available to employees

If you do decide to operate restrictions, you need to provide an alternative method for employees to be contacted in an emergency. Having a direct line for each line manager that employees can share with family members and schools etc. is preferable to using the main company telephone number.

Do your employees feel engaged and motivated?

If you notice employees who are using their mobile phones at work on an increasingly frequent basis, you need to consider any underlying issues. Do they have sufficient work to do? Do they have the necessary skills to carry out their role?

Fostering an environment where employees feel motivated, engaged and committed is key. If employees are both busy and engaged, the use of personal mobile phones at work is likely to reduce.

Next steps

Moorepay customers who would like support with a mobile phone policy can contact our advice line on 0345 073 0240. If you’re interested in finding out more about our HR Services you can contact us or download our brochure.

Want a round-up of stories like this delivered to your inbox?

About the author

Andrew Weir

Andrew has a wealth of experience in advising and representing clients of all shapes and sizes in a range of Employment Law topics from unfair dismissal through to all forms of discrimination and the complexities of TUPE. Andrew heads up our Advice Line and Advocacy teams who provide Employment Law advice to our clients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and support our clients in presenting defences at Employment Tribunals throughout the UK & Ireland.