Should your company ban cell phones and messaging apps at work?

Whether you are the CEO or a frontline worker, you have probably grown accustomed to having a phone in your hands nearly all the time. But is this appropriate at work, especially in non-desk industries like healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing?

There are many concerns regarding employees having cell phones at work, including:

  • Safety risk – distractions from cell phones can cause increased injury
  • Customer service issues – texting friends/family could keep employees from interacting with customers, patients, or guests
  • Reduced productivity – preoccupation with smartphones (i.e. checking Facebook and playing games) could hinder productivity

 With the explosion of messaging apps, companies are exposed to additional risks, including:

  • eDiscovery difficulties
  • Vulnerability to hackers
  • Sharing of confidential and sensitive information
  • Noncompliance with workplace policies
  • Lack of control

What options do employers have to manage these risks? Are bans or restrictions the most effective solution?

Having some kind of policy to manage these risks is no longer an option. Whether you have an existing policy that needs to be updated, or you’re creating a policy for the first time, there are three primary options to consider for your policy framework:

  1.   A complete ban of cell phone use as well as restriction of any form of unmonitored instant messaging. (Recent rulings by the NRLB (June 10, 2020) have allowed companies to restrict cell phone use during work hours, based on safety and security; provided that employees are allowed access to their phones during breaks.)
  2.  Designate specific timeframes for cell phone usage at work (i.e. breaks), and create policies around appropriate emergency usage.
  3.  Implement a secure and compliant messaging solution that is designed to be used at work, for work (i.e. Redeapp), and build policies to manage responsible cell phone usage.

 Since every company is different with its own unique needs, we suggest you work with your HR, legal, and operations teams to find a policy that will be effective for your workforce, boost morale, and help make your team more productive.

Here are several considerations as you develop your framework:

1.Audit and build on existing digital policies.

 As a starting point, you should be able to build upon current policies that cover cell phone usage, electronic communication, and/or social media.

Understand that a complete ban on mobile devices and messaging apps at work may no longer be practical for your workforce, and get all of the key stakeholders on board as you consider revisions. 

2.Identify any ‘Shadow IT’ currently being used.

 If you have not provided digital tools for your employees to use for work communication, it’s likely that your staff is using consumer apps such as GroupMe, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp to communicate with each other.

While these apps are easy to use, accessible to all, and free, you have little to no control over them as a company. Ask yourself: “how would we handle it if an inappropriate message was sent to a team or group in one of these apps? How can we ensure that misinformation is not being spread through these apps?”

As you consider discouraging the use of these apps, understand the value they are currently providing and how you may be able to create the same benefits in a secure environment. As you put your policy in place, you may need to specifically ban or even block access to these insecure apps to ensure that employees migrate to new, secure solutions. 

3.Consider communication standards and discipline for misuse.

 Establish and communicate your expectations for appropriate usage, information sharing, communication channels, and more. Clear policies should lay out the expected standard of use and highlight any disciplinary action that will incur if misuse happens. It is also a good idea to consider training managers and leaders on digital communication etiquette in the workplace. Front line managers and leaders of non-desk workers are often overlooked for this kind of training, but they are most likely engaging in digital communication via text or messaging with employees every day. 

4. Identify and implement compliant software solutions.

 Having all of your work-related communications between employees on one secure platform provides the best of all worlds. You ensure the right message gets to the right person at the right time, in a secure and compliant way that meets all of the company’s legal responsibilities.

If you simply attempt to shut down existing, insecure communication methods but do not provide an alternative, it’s unlikely that you’ll be successful. Furthermore, you may halt critical messaging that impacts your organization’s productivity. Implementing a solution like Redeapp will give your employees a secure, compliant, and structured place to communicate every day.  

Where should you begin?

When it comes to finding an employee communication and engagement solution for your business, it will depend on your model, your technology, the types of data you are handling, and the legal risk your company is willing to face.

Using a highly structured solution that keeps all communications secure and under the company’s ownership can protect you from many compliance issues as well as provide protection from legal action. All of this can be accomplished while providing employee empowerment and business optimization.

To learn more about employee engagement, check us out here.