Cell phones have become an integral part of our lives. With the development of technology and the advent of new social networking sites, people have been increasing attached to these tiny gizmos. It’s as if a part of them/ their extension that cannot be neglected and that has to be looked at every now and then. Actually, to say, there’s no fault in cell phones. They are just superbly created, excellently designed and perhaps the most extensively used gadget today. The average usage of cell phone per adult per day is about 4 hours in 2017. With about 1/6th of the day spent in using smartphones, it surely makes an impact when it comes to the workplace policy – to ban or to allow the employees to carry their cell phones.
A few of the companies around the world have banned completely the usage of cell phones and few others have allowed their employees to carry cell phones at workplace without a qualm. What makes a company follow different policies for the same ‘cell phone menace’ at workplace? Let’s dig deeper into the possible reasons for the companies to take such a stand on cell phone usage during work. The major reasoning that goes on in banning the cell phones at work station is the distraction that the cell phone causes. As per the research and the article published on Harvard Business Review, the buzz of the notification is sufficient enough to distract us even though we don’t look over to see the notification. And it takes a while for us to refocus once we look over those notifications and are back to work. Needless to say, it does affect the productivity.
Another popular reason for companies to ban cell phones is the additional risk that it poses to the sensitive and confidential company data. While it has nothing to do with the productivity of the employee, it says a lot about how the management perceives the employees and how does it place its trust on them. A few other companies exercise the ban on the grounds that cell phone would act as potential harmful device from the point of view of safety. Refineries, fertilizer and chemical productions units use a lot of flammable and high static production solvents, cell phone usage in such industries is banned on the premises that they have the potential to induce a spark which can be detrimental.
While the reasons for banning the cell phones makes complete sense, there are benefits of cell phone usage at workplace. Going on delineating the benefits, the first one that pops up is the use of cell phones for multiple tasks. They can be used to set the remainders to attend important meetings, to make quick notes, to make/ receive an urgent call, to make a quick estimate using the calculator etc. As per the article published on Forbes Leadership, taking breaks during working hours can increase productivity, improve mental well-being and can boost creativity. These breaks can be utilized to attend to necessary notifications, messages and calls helping the employees to de stress and recharge themselves.
The reason for me to dwell on this topic is the two organizations which I worked for had a different policy – one allowed to use cell phone, and one didn’t allow the usage. As a future manager, cell phone ban at workplace would make me reply heavily on the office telephone for the urgent calls. A quick official message to the external vendor/supplier would take time as I have to draft the mail and send it or reach the nearest official telephone. It will surely improve my working hours compared to when I carry the cell phone. Without cell phone, it would be cumbersome contacting my subordinates, peers and cross functional team members to get the critical, ‘to-do-now’ job status. For the first few initial days, my mind would hover over the thoughts as in what important message or personal call would I have received in the absence of cell phone during work.
In my view, it would be effective move by the management is they allow the usage of cell phones at workplace with certain limitations. Limitations such as asking the employees to set the mobile phones in silent mode, emphasizing more on the employee performance rather than focusing on cell phone usage duration, guidelines to avoid the breach in data security and confidentiality, etc.
By these measures, management can make sure the employee productivity isn’t harmed by usage of cell phone at workplace occasionally.