Too many businesses have employees glued to their phones, according to one business coach, and not enough small business owners or managers know what to do about it.
Terri Billington, the founder of Coach-Dynamics, told SmartCompany mobile phone use is an issue that is constantly cropping up among business coaches and at conferences she attends.
Australians are one of the biggest users of mobile phones globally, with around 97% of us owning at least one mobile phone, according to numerous studies.
On top of this, the Fair Work Commission hears numerous cases each year that involve disputes over the mobile phone usage of employees and former employees.
“Having teams getting results is a big challenge itself, but mobile phones are such a big distraction,” Billington says.
“You’d speak to any business owner and most would say it’s a challenge within their business. It’s more of a challenge for younger workers for whom social media is such a big thing and how they communicate with their mates and family.”
“They’re introduced with iPads, phones and things like that from such an early age that it’s a habit. They go into the workplace and just follow the same habits they’re dealing with, day in, day out.”
How to tackle the problem
Billington says if personal mobile phones are a problem in the workplace, then business owners should put a policy in place so people know what is expected of them.
This is because they might not realise what they are doing is rude, potentially hampering productivity or even their interactions with fellow co-workers.
“You could introduce a silent mobile phone policy, meaning your phone must be on silent,” Billington says.
“Or that you can only use it in designated areas or at designated times, such as your break.
“To introduce a policy is key instead of waiting until new employees come onboard. Do it straight away.”
As for how to get people to follow the rules, Billington says the best thing to do is to lead by example.
“If the business owner doesn’t adhere to what they want to happen in their business, they’re not going to get their workers doing it,” she says.
“Gone are the days when the boss was a boss and the employees had to do what the boss said or they wouldn’t have a job. You’ve got to lead by example.”
Business owners should always link new policies back to the business’s core values, according to Billington.
This means if you want to promote trust in the workplace, then you should make a mobile phone policy all about trust instead of distrust.
“Say we trust you to do your job right, but we want to be able to show how mobile phones can impact you at work,” Billington says.
“If you’re in a trade, it might be a safety issue not only for yourself on your phone but also the client when the work isn’t being done correctly.”
Work-life balance is important too
Margaret Harrison, managing director of Our HR Company, says there is a flipside to mobile phones in the workplace as bosses can now call their employees outside of routine work hours or while they are on holidays.
In fact, research published in 2014 found more than 70% of Australians take their work phones with them while on holiday.
This means the majority of workers are answering emails and work calls while they are meant to be switched off.
“I don’t mind mobiles [in the office], people use it as their main contact point anyway – business or otherwise,” Harrison says.
“It’s not as much of a problem as when the internet first started and people were booking holidays willy-nilly in the workplace. It’s just part of life now. I don’t think it’s much of an issue at all.”
What’s is important, according to Harrison, is that employers respect that sometimes their employees need a break.
This means that if employees are to use their phones minimally in the office, then bosses should, in turn, not call their employees’ mobiles after business hours.
“I think that should be a serious human resources policy,” Harrison says.
“Senior managers should know you don’t contact your staff after hours. There’d be greater productivity in the long-run where people feel more enthused about going to work and as though they haven’t been hassled and have a life.
“It’s part of work-life balance, if nothing else.”