Kennebec Valley Chamber

Serving the Kennebec Valley, Maine Region

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Friday Report ~ May 08, 2015

Mr. Nice Guy or Atilla the Hun? Your call. - In my blog on April 24th, I spoke of the societal problem of connectivity and debated if we are too connected. I heard a news story this week that a performer, scheduled to appear at the Verizon Center, (a touch of irony is not lost here) has banned cell phones from the event and will have you escorted out if you use it at all. As a parent, they just lost my business.

            This led me to revisit the desire we have to connect to the social networking world and the need for parents to connect to their children. What happens when these needs or desires cross into the work place?

            We all know, as adults, what is right and wrong when it comes to doing personal business on company time. The next generation does not have that same understanding. This can make it challenging. There are a litany of downsides to cell phones in the workplace. I will highlight 4 here and let you research additional concerns.

            Lost productivity –Employers make their money on the amount of production each employees provides during the day. The repeated interruptions that come from texts, face book or even apps and games will eat up more time than you would imagine. A survey by job site CareerBuilder last year claimed that 24% of respondents admitted to spending at least an hour a day on personal calls, emails and text messages.

Equipment Accidents – Many of the manufacturing managers find this one especially troubling. Use of heavy equipment (forklifts etc) and cell phones is a recipe for serious injury or loss of life. This cannot be tolerated and must be restricted and strongly addressed when violated.

Auto Accidents- With people telecommuting and more of our business being done on the road, even in company cars, the employer is at risk if an accident occurs in a company vehicle or on company time. The liability if someone gets injured due to distracted driving is substantial.

Privacy issues – With the increasing ability of cell phones to record, video and document things, comes a valid concern about privacy. In the medical world, they struggle all the time with keeping medical professionals informed while maintaining patient confidentiality. In any office, recording an outburst that then winds up on youtube can be a serious violation of an employee’s privacy.

So there are some concerns about the use of cell phones in the workplace. But what can be done? What kind of stance do you want to have regarding this? Will you ban it completely? What about the single mom, who’s teen gets home every day at 3 and needs to text to let her know he is safe. As a manager, I always felt that running around the office monitoring my employees was a bit of overkill and not how I wanted to handle the issue. The problem became evident on its own when fellow employees expressed concern about abuses of the policy or when work was not getting accomplished. Then it was discussed as a performance issue.

This approach only works if you have a clear policy in place that prohibits the excessive use of cell phones in the office. If you allow for some judgment calls on the part of the supervisor, you may create a more enjoyable workplace, but there is a very fine line that can be difficult to walk. The truth of the matter is that your truly motivated employees who enjoy their jobs are less likely to be distracted by outside issues. Your time might be better spent finding the right employees than chasing cell phone usage. As always, if you need anything from us, don’t hesitate to call.