You asked: “We are a small ‘job shop’ and we are having a problem with employees texting at work. We already have a policy against personal cell phone use on the job, but we want to allow exceptions for employees with emergencies or ongoing family issues. How should we handle this?”
As you may have already discovered, allowing exceptions to a rule generally negates the rule in the minds of your employees. As other employees catch wind of the exception, a sense of entitlement usually follows. If you must make exceptions, you should reconsider your existing policy. It’s better to have no policy at all than to have a policy that you do not (or cannot) follow consistently.
Regarding the use of personal cell phones at work, you can certainly create – and consistently enforce – a “zero tolerance” policy. And you can still allow your employees to take urgent calls. More on that shortly.
First, you must clearly communicate your “zero tolerance” policy to your crew. When presenting the policy, be sure they understand the reason behind it. “This is for you safety, the safety of the equipment and for the sake of quality and productivity”. They need to understand that neglecting their work to text a friend is NOT going to contribute to a high quality product delivered to the customer on time. And producing high-quality work in a timely manner means more jobs coming in and more work for the crew. If you don’t already, consider tying individual work (quality and quantity) to a bonus program.
Now for those urgent calls . . . Make it clear to EVERYONE that they MUST talk to you BEFORE their shift if they have a personal situation going on that may require them to take a phone call. The next step is up to you (and may depend on your shop’s set up and the nature of your team).
- You can require all calls to come through the company’s main phone line (but be sure that the company phone is not left unattended if you implement this method). Make it clear that disciplinary action will follow if they are caught with a cell phone in their possession while working (i.e., first time is a verbal warning, second time a written warning, third time suspension or termination at your discretion). Or
- You can require them to get expressed permission from management to carry their cell phone on any given shift. Again, make it clear that disciplinary action will be taken against any employee who is carrying a cell phone without the permission of management, given THAT DAY.
Whatever course you decide to follow, be consistent.
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