Policies for Employee Cellphone Use

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From an employer's perspective, regulating cellphone use shouldn't be different from any other kinds of behavior that threaten morale or productivity if they're not addressed. However, don't assume that a general statement will cover all of your bases. Whatever language you adopt must address the "who, what, when, where and why" of cellphone use -- and related issues, like cameras, or text messages -- to eliminate room for ambiguity or confusion.

Consider the Context

The number and nature of calls that employees get is just one issue to consider in regulating cellphones. You also need to decide if employees may bring cellphones to meetings or keep them on vibrate during work hours, says career writer Sarah Amundson on West Sound Workforce's website. If workers use technologies like headset devices and video cameras, you'll need specific language addressing those issues. If you believe that some employees have more legitimate reasons for using cellphones than others, take that issue into account, too.

Define Acceptable Usage

Set clear boundaries to eliminate confusion. Require employees to accept calls at a designated area, to avoid disturbing others. Limit cellphone use to break times or lunch hours. Allow flexibility for emergency calls, though you can ask workers to inform you when they occur, states Inc. magazine in its January 2010 article, "How to Create a Cellphone Policy." Also, spell out guidelines to reimburse the costs of calls, emails and texts made during work hours; since those charges are billable to your company, as well as your employees' cellphone plans.

Regulate Non-Work Usage

Many states ban drivers from texting or using cellphones, so make sure your policy follows the relevant statutory language. Include restrictions for employees who drive company vehicles or operate heavy machinery. Also, since cameras are a common feature of cellphones, ban employees from taking them into sensitive areas -- like your finance department -- to prevent proprietary information from falling into the wrong hands. Follow the same logic in barring mobile devices from private spots like restrooms. Otherwise, you risk being sued if coworkers record or pass around inappropriate images.

Review the Draft Language

Get additional input on your policy from corporate lawyers and information technology personnel. Make sure the proposed language fits your workplace, since it's normal in some fields -- like sales and public relations, for example -- to conduct business by cellphone. Once you're satisfied with your proposed language, require your employees to sign the new policy -- and review it annually. Treat violations like any other rule that an employee breaks. You can consider a progressive disciplinary system that includes verbal and written warnings, or impose alternative measures, such as requiring an employee to surrender his phone during business hours.