How to get employees off their phones and back to work.

Are mobile phones impacting our workplaces?

The issue of mobile phone use at work and how you address it.

A fast food franchise owner came to us the other day with a problem he couldn’t fix.

He has a lot of young staff in his business and has constant trouble keeping them off their phones. Whenever he turned his back, they would be checking their phones and they seem to spend more time on their phones than actually working.

He was worried that somebody would get injured as they work around hot oil, and was frustrated with their low work ethic and total disregard to his instructions.

Is this a problem in your business too?

Chances are that it is.

We’re continually relying on our phones for a huge range of tasks. Have a spare five minutes waiting for the train? Watch a cat video. Don’t know what to make for dinner? Google it at the supermarket. Need an alarm? Be woken at 5am by a blasting horn.

But as useful as they are, our mobiles can’t do our work for us.

Not surprisingly, some people find it hard to disengage from our devices while at work. This poses a range of risks- like OH&S, distraction from tasks and loss of productive time.  

So how do you get your employees off their phones and back to work?

The first step is to have a clear policy on mobile phone usage in the workplace. Make sure that all new employees and existing ones know the rules. Have clear rules like ‘your phone belongs in your locker while at work, not in your pocket. These clear statements are much easier to enforce than no rules or vaguely stated ones.

Make sure all employees, including your management team follow the policy. Make sure that managers lead by example and walk the talk.

Most importantly, if employees continue to have their phones out, discipline them. Give them clear warnings if they keep their phones out. Remind them of the company’s policy and re-educate them if needed. Make sure you document all warnings if their behaviour continues

We recommend applying one of our favourite principles; Constant Gentle Pressure (CGP). Don’t let things get out of hand before you take action. Be consistent, be fair and make sure your employees meet your expectations.

If, despite several warnings and no improved behaviour is achieved, you can dismiss an employee for mobile usage at work. Fair Work Commission has dealt with an influx of unfair dismissal decisions relating to mobile phone usage. These decisions have been in the employer favour where there is a clear policy and the employee has had several documented warnings.

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