Whether you give your employees company-issued cell phones or allow them to use their own, you and your employees can benefit from easier communication, better safety and increased efficiency in completing work tasks. At the same time, though, problems with cell phones in the workplace might include distraction, a poor work environment and even costly legal issues. Assessing the advantages and disadvantages of mobile phones in business can help you come up with policies that make this technology effective in your workplace.

Business Advantages of Cell Phones

One of the main benefits of cell phones in business is that they make it easier for your workforce to stay connected. This is especially the case when you have employees who work from home or travel since they can reach out to management, clients or colleagues whenever and wherever necessary. Completing projects remotely becomes easier with a conference call or group video chat, while traveling salespeople can keep in touch with the home office while on the road.

Cell phones also provide functionality that can help employees complete work tasks more efficiently. Whether your employees need to access the web, take pictures of a product, research for a marketing campaign or manage client appointments, smartphones make it possible to complete these tasks quickly and all with a single device. With productivity apps widely available, employees can even complete entire tasks such as typing up a letter or spreadsheet from their phones.

Cell phones can keep your employees safer. Having a phone readily available makes it easier to contact emergency services, whether there's a fire in your building or a delivery driver has a car accident. Being able to conduct research quickly allows your employees to search for safety information online if a chemical gets spilled or there's some other emergency on the worksite.

Business Disadvantages of Cell Phones

While constant access to cell phones can be useful, distraction from use is one of the most common problems with cell phones in the workplace. While you might think your employee is busy sending an important work email, she could actually be playing her favorite game or sending selfies to other co-workers. This lost work time can hurt your business's productivity, especially when key deadlines need to be met. In cases where the phone causes a workplace accident, such as an employee who is distracted while driving, it can even cause safety issues.

Since your employees' cell phones may have access to important work applications or confidential data, there are also privacy and legal issues to consider. If your employee loses the device, this information can get in the wrong hands and leaked publicly. Even when the phone is in your employee's hands, a hacker might be able to snoop on the phone and get access to important data about your company's finances and intellectual property. Handling such issues can be costly and can possibly harm the company's reputation.

In addition, cell phones in business can harm the working environment. First, your employees may feel they have less of a work-life balance when they're connected 24/7 with the company through their phones. Second, cell phones can encourage less face-to-face communication throughout your company, which may harm working relationships or lead to misunderstandings.

Company-Issued Cell Phone Agreement

Considering these pros and cons of cell phones in the workplace, you can draft a cell phone agreement for your company to show your employees how to use their mobile devices responsibly and reduce risks. For example, you'll want to spell out for what employees should use their phones, which security procedures to follow and when cell phone usage is appropriate. If you pay your employees separately for business-related calls outside the office, your policy should also clearly discuss reimbursement.

If you allow your employees to use their own phones rather than giving them company-issued phones, you might include in the cell phone agreement any costs of service you'll cover, whether certain apps are blocked and whether you monitor your employees' phone usage. You'll have less control over your employees' personal phones, so issuing secure company phones may be a better choice.