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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I Resolve… to Increase Performance at Work

Dear, Readers,

Let me ask YOU a question for a change. We’re a few weeks into the new year. This is the time when all those good intentions about going to the gym, eating healthier, and reducing debt/spending less seem to go by the wayside. If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to increase productivity on the job, how are you doing?

Athlete Running Through Finish LineIncreasing performance at work is a common goal for professionals and organizations. It may come in the form of raised sales quotas, heightened customer satisfaction, or expanding your company’s reach digitally or through traditional brick and mortar.  But how can you take concrete steps to make these pie-in-the-sky targets a reality? Question everything.

Get Organized. January is a great time to take a look at your operational and project systems already in place, right down to the in-boxes on your team’s desks. Keep in mind that your organizational style may differ from your employees or co-workers. A pristine desk may help you concentrate, but Barry over in accounting can miraculously find any piece of information requested in all those piles on his desk! If you spend way too much time and aggravation trying to find past correspondence in Outlook, spend an hour or two now to organize for the coming year. I like this article, 10 Tips for Organizing Your E-mail, because it doesn’t give a one-size-fits-all answer.  You decide if you’re a searcher, a filer, or a tagger, and it suggests solutions for you.

Work Efficiently. Analyze your workday for inefficiencies. Return phone calls when people are more likely to be in their offices (8:30-9:30 a.m.), rather than in meetings or at lunch (10-2). Set aside blocks of time to check e-mail, deal with paperwork, or your odious task of choice. You’ll get more accomplished if you don’t interrupt yourself by feeling the need to read every e-mail the instant it dings. In fact, turn that alert off! Figure out your most productive times, and schedule your most difficult tasks according to your own circadian rhythms. You may need to let staff and co-workers know when you are not to be interrupted; a closed door is usually a pretty good hint.

Minimize Distractions. A recent survey from Ask.com found that noisy colleagues are the biggest distraction for workers, not Facebook or texting (though they are up there in the top 10)! It may be difficult to get complete peace and quiet in an open office environments. Wearing earbuds or noise cancelling headphones can help. Did you know that room temperature can also affect productivity at work? As one who is perpetually cold, I completely concur! Office environments that are either too chilly or too warm can lead to a loss in performance, so set that thermostat at a nice Goldilocks “just right” temperature.

Productivity keyMaximize Meetings. Industry Week once called meetings “the Great White Collar Crime” and estimated they waste $37 billion a year. While it would be silly to imagine a business environment without meetings, always have an agenda and always start on time (those tardy Teddies will soon get the message). No one likes to spend more time in meetings discussing the work than actually doing the job. If team members have trouble keeping it brief, suggest standing meetings to keep powwows on point!

Fine Tune Communication. Communicate yearly goals clearly to staff and colleagues through verbal as well as written instructions. If there has been a communication problem with a certain coworker, try to figure out how to better reach that person. He or she may have a different learning style (i.e., visual vs. aural), so see if you can tailor your interaction to accommodate.  Set up check-ins with all vested parties to make sure the train is still on the right track and project tasks are being completed on schedule. You don’t want to micromanage, but still want to keep tabs on projects in which you are involved.

By taking a fresh look at the status quo now, you’ll reap the benefits by meeting those end-of-year goals in December.

Readers: How do you plan to be more productive at work this year?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Disclaimer

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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