Cell Phone Central

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

Over the past few years, I have seen a huge increase in the presence of cell phones in the work place. It has become so huge that it seems to be impacting my co-workers’ productivity and attention to detail and is causing a huge distraction in our office. How can I make a cell phone policy that tapers cell phone use but does not fully restrict my employees’ technical freedom?

Now that 9 out of every 10 adults owns and uses a cell phone, it is probably about time that someone asked this question. Smart phones and other handheld devices have become a necessity in today’s world. For both business and personal use, it is hard to find a time that a cell phone wouldn’t come in handy. With all the fun games, time-saving apps, email, and communication capabilities, it is easy to see how such a small device has the ability to control massive amounts of our time — time when we perhaps should be working. And that’s not to mention the noise that is emitted from these little guys. Ring tones, text message notifications, Facebook dings, and voices on either end chatting back and forth — it can cause quite a bit of professional noise pollution.

First off, you should establish a set of standards that everyone in the office must abide by. These standards should be posted in all break rooms, employee communal areas, bathrooms, and should be included in company policy documents or on company intranet sites. Some positions that require a cell phone and are a necessity to perform an employee’s job function can be exempt under certain circumstances.

Here are some simple guidelines to help get you started.

  1. Cell phones that are not issued by the company or used for company business should be placed in silent or vibrate mode during work hours.
  2. During meetings, employees should refrain from using their cell phones unless an emergency arises or a client is requiring assistance.
  3. If non-emergency personal calls come in during work, let them go to voicemail and return the call on your personal breaks.
  4. If it is important, please leave your office space and continue a brief call. Do not distract or involve other co-workers with your personal calls. Standing away from your desk but outside another’s workspace is not appropriate or acceptable.
  5. When taking a phone call, remember to use a low tone – or inside voice.
  6. Remember you are in a professional environment; be aware of your language, choice of words, and subject matter when having conversations. You never know who could be listening in or taking offense to your call.

You will want to personalize your cell phone policy to reflect the type of work that you do. If you are working with large construction equipment and heavy machinery, a “No Cell Phone” policy may be necessary.

Does your company have a cell phone policy? If so, what is it?

Thanks for the great questions, and I look forward to hearing from my readers out there!

Best Wishes,


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vernon
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 10:09:17

    Marvelous, what a blog it is! This weblog gives useful information to us, keep it up.


  2. m.capriola
    May 29, 2012 @ 07:20:29


    Remember that? When on the job a person should be concentrating on the task at hand, not socializing on the phone or playing video games. Pay attention to your work. Look and act like a professional.

    I nearly tripped over someone at work who stopped in the middle of an aisle to play with her cell phone. Jackass.

    Cell phones are used to communicate between Kitchen B (where I work) and the main kitchen which supplies us. This is good. This is why God gave us cell phones.

    I leave my phone in my bag in the main kitchen during work hours. Someone complained that they couldn’t reach me one evening. So what? I was working and couldn’t have talked to you anyway. Get over it.


  3. Drewdove
    May 17, 2012 @ 14:47:29

    IMHO cell phones have been demonized for things people are more than capable of doing without a phone. In this instance, as far as workers being unproductive because of excessive chatter, I’ve seen people not working talking away with the co-worker next to them. From discussing the weather to preaching the gospel these people did not need an iPhone to take time from work. So if you’re going to have a policy to increase productivity don’t hang it on the cell phone but in distractions of all kinds. Just my 2¢ so YMMV.


  4. pravinchn
    May 17, 2012 @ 10:33:24

    Reblogged this on pravinchn.


  5. Pastor Tom
    May 16, 2012 @ 10:59:38

    To the point, in a production environment being distracted by personal calls can be costly.. Where I was working as a supervisor in a phone bank, it got so bad we basically banned cell phone use because we were not meeting corporate goals for service levels. The though was “we are paying you to answer our phones, not yours.” So unless you were on break, the phone had to be off and in your desk. No excuses. Emergencies were routed through the supervisor and you were given a message. Punishment? Yes. One verbal warning, first written warning loss of bonus for the month. Repeated violations one day unpaid suspension. Tough? Yes (I did not invent it, just enforce it) but our service level went up 11% within three weeks. So I guess it was effective, but it did have a negative effect on moral temporarily, it improved when our bonuses started going up for meeting service. This may seem extreme but like I said I did not invent it, jteust was responsible for enforcing it with my team.


  6. Robin
    May 16, 2012 @ 08:55:12

    Cell phones…I personally have left that technology behind. I gave up my cell phone and the other distractions that come with them.
    I work in retail and customers are rude to sales staff and cashiers, oblivious to potential hazards, and occasionally obnoxiously loud.
    On the other hand the workers in retail should keep it OFF nothing like walking up to a sales associate or to a register to find texting takes precedence over the customer being taken care of and processed through their purchase.
    As far as in the office/ industrial workplace…let it in your desk, locker, car, or briefcase. Your workplace has telephones for emergency contact or if you want to order lunch. If you are on my clock I don’t want you “talking”, “texting” or “tweeting” on company time. It is not part of your job description and I am not paying you for it.
    Don’t get me started on the unsafe work conditions cell phones can cause.
    If I could have my way your phone would be taken when you are “caught” and not give it back until the end of the work day; you want to act like a child, be treated like a child. Oh and after three times, in the Donald’s words…YOU’RE FIRED!
    It doesn’t matter to me that you feel you deserve to have this privilege at work because it is a personal privilege not a RIGHT… so at work keep it OFF!


  7. A. Fuller
    May 15, 2012 @ 16:33:25

    Where I work there is a policy in place, but the phones still go off. People will
    hide their phones underneath a table and text away. If you are caught, you are
    given a warning. But they still do it anyway.


  8. Linda
    May 15, 2012 @ 10:49:24

    I agree with you Bryan!


  9. Omega Payton
    May 15, 2012 @ 10:47:26

    America’s posltion as an economical powerhouse is on the decline, and the fault can be squarely placed on the attitude of American workers. Indeed, right from the start, children are taught wrong, e.g., go off to college and graduate so that You don’t have to work hard, or dig a ditch. Consequently college grads enter the workplace with the notion that they should not have to work hard or get there hands dirty at all. This attitude which is persistently pushed, now has white collar workers turning up their noses at blue collar workers, as if the latters are untouchables. Moreover, while all the worker-hating is taking place, production jobs have left America and the service industry is unable to bear the entire load of keeping America employed. The final nail in the coffin is foreign workers from south of the border taking the remaining production jobs away from Americans, notwithstanding the fact that the skilled craft labor which they perform is an inferior quality and is one of the main reasons for the housing crash, inasmuch as the houses which they build are totally of an inferior quality, and worth at least 50% less than the initially asking prices. Call me what you will, racist, etc., but I have worked in the construction industry for decades and I can attest that foreign workers perform inferior quality work.


    • m.capriola
      May 29, 2012 @ 07:38:31

      A lot of what you say is true, but immigrant labor has always taken the dirtiest jobs that resident Americans wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. The reason that there are 11 million undocumented workers in this country is so the employers can exploit these people without having to worry about the workers asking for benefits, raises, or safe working conditions. It’s a national disgrace. In the old days we’d give immigrants work visas and citizenship — and then screw them over.

      It sounds like you’re getting a lot of unskilled labor brought into the construction industry. Sometimes it goes the other way. The apple orchards in Bennington County, Vermont were pressured one year into hiring local, unskilled labor instead of bringing in the professional fruit pickers from Jamaica they’d always used. This experiment was an unmitigated disaster. Believe it or not, there is a proper way to pick fruit, and you have to do it fast as well as right. Anyway, the following year the orchard owners went back to hiring the Jamaicans to pick the fruit because the Jamaicans had the necessary skills and experience.

      As for the collapse of the housing market, there was an article in Analog magazine back in the 1990’s about the various economic cycles (commodities, housing contruction, retail sales, etc) that rise and fall in set patterns. The author pointed out that all the cycles would happen to hit bottom in 2006-2007. Basic math. Congress, the White House, and Wall Street probably made matters worse, but the crash would have come regardless.


  10. James Allen
    May 15, 2012 @ 09:58:50

    Cell phone use is a grey area where I work. It is forbidden for everyone except a few people who work remotely. For those who use cell phones this rule is “word of mouth” and not a written policy in our employee hand book.


  11. Bryan Keith Earley
    May 15, 2012 @ 08:41:52

    well the sad thing about this country is the lack of appreciation of what you have everyone who has a job believes they deserve it where as they should thankful they have one


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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