What to do about Smartphones in the Office
Most of us have had that uncomfortable experience during meetings, conversations and critical moments. Something needs to be done, attention must be paid to the matter at hand, yet there are always individuals who keep staring at their phone as if work was not important at all. We may even have found ourselves in that position more than once.
It’s not a big surprise that handling the use of mobile devices by employees has become a matter that all modern companies must deal with.
When a new, game-changing piece of technology arrives, its effects aren't clearly apparent right away. The first signs for the arrival of new paradigms that conflict with our old beliefs and methods come in the way of disruptions that seem new and strange, with no clearly established guidelines on how to solve these situations.
That has been exactly the case in the past decade since the arrival of smartphones and other mobile communication technologies. By establishing its permanence in today's world during these past decades, the mobile tech wave heralded by the iPhone has completely established itself and its influence in our way of living, permeating all aspects of our lives including our work practices and office dynamics.
And so, we have come into conflict with old methods of work that are not always compatible with mobile technology, the convenience and instantaneous nature of having a small tablet capable of worldwide communications in the palm of our hand at all times is now a new influence in workplace policy that could come at odds with an unprepared company.
Over the last century, the optimal performance of a workforce has been measured by the productivity, which has been, according to some studies, stifled in a major proportion by smartphones, as 55% of polled employees have cited.
So, how can such a prevalent yet impactful thing such as the daily use of a personal pocket computer be handled properly by companies?
Attention and How to Keep It
For scenarios like customer service departments, it makes perfect sense to ban the use of cellphones: An employees' attention should be solely focused on tending to the customer's present needs. One cannot maintain an essence of politeness or eagerness to help while staring at a personal device that everyone knows has nothing to do with helping a person in need of an attentive service.
Regular offices, however, don't quite need to have the same level of regulation for its employees. Some companies enforce their own employee cellphone policy as recognition of its role in everyone's daily life but require a certain amount of restraint that politely asks for fewer distractions and disturbances in the business routine.
These guidelines are regularly ignored or violated, of course. Sometimes, people can't help themselves but to take that cellphone and check that group conversation that has them so entertained. Interestingly enough, there are also many benefits to be taken advantage of when employees are handling pocket computers every day.
Smart Work Applications
In studies made by companies including Samsung, it was discovered that companies who decided to use new technologies to their advantage. Enterprises in the United States have started seeing up to a 34 percent increase in productivity by incorporating the use of workplace apps such as Slack or Quire to improve task assignments and communications.
Another bonus comes with the implementation of “Bring Your Own Device” strategies that have been applied for employees to make use of their own devices while only preoccupying themselves with keeping them secure, saving a lot of money in providing expensive hardware and riding on the market’s trend to sell state-of-the-art devices to consumers. These strategies have become so popular and widespread that they will soon become the norm in most companies.
Yet, there is still the matter of using such devices for solely productive purposes on working hours, and this will depend only on the policies on which your company will choose to approach this matter.
A Sensible-yet-Effective Policy
Company cellphone norms must be strict enough not to allow for a stifling of productivity, yet comprehensive enough as to not produce a certain level of anxiety that would negatively affect motivation and encourage employees to find a way in which they can break these rules.
It would vary depending on company or department, but human resource departments must always maintain themselves informed and aware on the use and misuse of technology and their ramifications to understand both what their company requires of its employees and what that company must permit to allow for an environment that does not feel forceful in their prohibitions towards its workforce.
If the people who dictate and regulate the policies don't have a solid understanding of the technology involved, how could they possibly deal with the minutia of cellphone routines? This, of course, goes way beyond knowing how to use a smartphone, it is also about the use of social media, instant messaging, entertainment applications, and the many different uses one can give a omni-purpose gadget such as a smartphone.
A clear and well-thought-out set of guidelines needs to be comprehensive and adapted to the enterprise’s department, position, and dynamics, while also being regularly well-communicated and instructed to keep the company's workforce properly informed on them.
Written notices, signs, email memos, and including cellphone policy guidelines as part of employee orientation are the main ways one can achieve a well-informed workforce that keeps in line with common courtesies regarding smartphone devices in the office.
Now, there are some cases where extreme measures are required, such as the difficult challenges presented when important information is being handled in the day-to-day of an office environment.
An important consideration for many companies is that of security and the handling of sensitive data. Phone operators are prohibited the use of personal smart devices while working, since they are entrusted with the personal data of their customer on a daily basis, and security leaks are natural if a service office allows its employees to use phones connected to the internet while at the same time they are acquiring account data from people at work.
A creative department employee might not handle the same type of sensitive information a bank executive does on a daily basis, and things such as personal consumer data, medical records, confidential company operations and other types of critical information must always be considered at risk if being handled by people with free-reign on their use of cellphone devices.
However, lines start to blur as we go into more regular spaces. Offices for administrative and operational personnel can allow themselves to be a little laxer with their rules regarding personal devices, yet the sensitivity of the information to be handled in each department level is a major point to be considered.
It seems obvious that in the present day, the use of smartphone devices in an office environment is not a matter of prohibition, but one of guidance. A company that has a productive and yet does not stifle the normal behavior of its employees is one that understands its workforce enough and has a clear communication with it to the point of coming to a common understanding of how an office should be interacting with the use of such tools as the pocket computers we use every day.
Don’t fear the age of smartphones, learn to embrace it and channel it into a positive trend, since it’s here to stay and in this past decade it only seems to be growing further and deeper into our lives.