Texting on the Job

Dear Anita,

Lately I’ve noticed that one of my employees is texting all throughout the workday. I’m not unreasonable. I don’t mind a text here and there, but I feel like half of her time is spent on personal chit-chat. How can I address the situation?

Texting_on_the_Job_00001161700Dear, Vexed about Texts,

Americans send 208,333 text messages every second, totaling 18 billion texts daily, according to the CITA-The Wireless Association and Nielsen. We use texts more often than phone calls these days to keep in touch with family, friends, and coworkers. While the vast majority of those responding to our Select Family poll think that it is not okay to send personal texts at work, the Millennial generation may disagree. The numbers indicate that 18-24 year olds are especially addicted to texting.

Texting on the JobAs I mentioned in my blog post The Multi-Tasking Myth, productivity suffers when you are interrupted, whether by another work task or the buzz, chirp, or ding of an incoming text.  In a recent study in the Higher Education Journal, half of a class was requested to text the professor three times during a lecture and the other half was not allowed to text.  Who do you think retained less information and scored lower on the pop quiz afterwards? The texters, of course.  A University of Waterloo study in the workplace similarly found that cell phones created too many distractions for employees to complete their office tasks.

Customer service may suffer because of text distractions. It’s incredibly rude for a worker to engage in texting (personal or otherwise) while handling a customer face-to-face. Even when on a call on the business line, an incoming personal text can cause less than 100% attention to the conversation at hand.

Staffers who drive for their jobs should be especially careful not to text while at the wheel. And employees who have a company-provided cell phone should be aware that any texts or images sent and received are company property (think twice about “sexting” on your work cell).

Vexed, is this just one bad apple ruining texting privileges for the whole team? Depending on your company size and culture, you may wish to add a texting policy. Think carefully, though, because a strict policy could backfire by decreasing employee morale and thus productivity.

If you feel your company does needs a written policy, check out Quickbooks’ article Tips for Establishing an Employee Texting Policy. Here is one example of a texting/cell phone policy:

XYZ Company is committed to providing a work environment that is safe, customer focused, and free of unnecessary distractions related to personal cell phone usage. Cell phones must be set to vibrate or silent mode instead of sounding ring tones. The company encourages a reasonable standard of limiting personal calls and text messaging to breaks and meal periods. Employees are asked to make all personal calls and texts on non-work time and to ensure that friends and family members are aware of this policy. Flexibility will be provided in circumstances demanding immediate attention.

As a manager, you may want to make exceptions for special situations, such as when an employee’s family member is ill. In another for instance, parents of latch-key kids will be more distracted until they get that text message that their child made it home safe and sound.

But if you feel a formalized policy is overkill (or you’re afraid your workforce of younger employees will mutiny or jump ship), have a chat with your serial texter about the inappropriate amount of messaging during work hours.

BOL (Best of Luck).

Readers: Do you send personal text messages while on the job? What is your company’s policy on texting?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tiffany Lieu
    Jul 03, 2015 @ 17:18:32

    Texting messages is just way too fast for the average person unless you absolutely need to use it. A while ago I thought the pace of cell phone usage looked crazy as more people spent much of their time on it daily. I have not gotten to using either yet due to the cost covering need. But if you have to start using either you really have to step up somewhere. I have been emailing and at least it is not very busy most of the time. When everything gets busy for all of the three, the pace can be hectic yet professionalism must be maintained with returning the responses as soon as possible.


    • Jeremy Olson
      Jul 06, 2015 @ 15:23:12

      Tiffany, It is one thing to use email, phone, or texting to communicate as part of a job and duties, but a totally different thing to use them to communicate with friends and family when you should be working. That is taking away from an honest day’s work, and is cheating your employer, causing loss of time, and weakening the company you work for.


  2. Yvonne
    Jul 01, 2015 @ 08:22:54

    Well addressed, Anita. Good luck, Vexed About Texts. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Moonstone Mary
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 16:36:07

    For awhile, I worked for a power wheel chair company. If you were caught with your cell phone even just on your desk, it was immediate dismissal. Texting while driving can be deadly, texting while working is a definite distraction that should not be tolerated by employers except during breaks / lunches of course.


  4. Michele
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 15:09:35

    Where I work, we alternate the reception desk, and are not allowed cellphones at the reception desk. Do people sneak and still use their phone? Absolutely!! I do agree with the previous comment when you are face to face don’t be rude. Give the person at the walk-in window the respect that they deserve and really listen instead of being distracted.


  5. Jeremy Olson
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 14:45:26

    There was a time when nobody had personal phones on the work floor. If someone wanted to get a hold of you, they had to call the company and they would page you that you had a call. And companies even asked that you didn’t have a lot of calls coming in or be calling out on company phones. I worked for a big orange warehouse retailer and associates there are constantly stopping in aisles or ducking behind things to take calls and to text. And yes I observed that it does take away from productivity and customer service. I made it a point to keep my personal phone locked in my locker and checked it on breaks and lunch. I even observed times when associates were on personal calls while in the middle of work and on machinery. So one day I got a customer service call from the cashiers “on a company phone” and because I answered it while operating a lift machine, and because of an obscure new rule nobody knew about, I lost my job. Go figure!


  6. Sue Johnson
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 14:43:10

    Before texting existed, people functioned just fine without frequent contact with friends, family, businesses, and every other human on the planet. It’s rude in many cases, distracting, and wastes company time. I deplore it.


  7. Aurora Monsisvais
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 11:46:34

    The company I work for informed employees in the policy no cellular phones on the sales floor or on your person while working. By not having my cell phone with me, I accomplish more work and feel at ease not thinking about who called me. I know the cell phone distracts me that’s why I turn it on silent whenever I know I need to concentrate on more important things.


  8. James Tuberville
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 11:38:47

    I have text on the job. but I tried to keep it to a bare minimum. most of the time I keep to break times and lunch breaks so it doesn’t infere with work tasks. Or if it is to alert another co worker. And I never text when it inappropiate like driving.


  9. rhonda
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 09:19:11

    I have a question i,m looking for a job and have been looking for some time and vary seldome get a call back for a interview why is that???? its annoying to I


  10. Elizabeth Gibson
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 08:59:46

    I will just tell them if they can not go by my rules no more phones aloud.


  11. Dorothy Hilton
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 08:45:45

    Texting every now and then on a job is acceptable to me, but to continuously be on your phone isn’t acceptable. If texting is interfering with his/her work then they dont need the job nor do they want it enough to put away their phone.


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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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