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Phones in the Workplace and How to Manage Them.

Staff on their phones can be a nightmare for an office that wants to maintain a high level of production. Studies have shown that the average employee checks their phone every 15 minutes. Smartphones distract staff from achieving a state of flow, defined as “a state in which we are fully absorbed by an activity, forgetting about space and time, whilst being very productive. We are all familiar with this. Once receiving a non work-related text, email or alert, the persons’ attention goes to it and productivity drops for the next ten to fifteen minutes. The phone also does not have to be answered to cause a drop in productivity. An unanswered buzz or ring causes such stress, wonder and worry in the individual that people make 28% more mistakes in the 10 minutes following the alert – the effect of having your phone nearby, even if you don’t physically interact with it, is comparable to the effects of texting or talking on the phone while driving.

Part II The COST

A Forbes study revealed that the average office worker spends around an hour a day on their phone doing non work related activities. An HOUR A DAY. This adds up to 5 hours a week and 20 hours a month and 240 hours a year. Take an employee’s hourly pay and multiply it by 20. Then take that money and give it to each of your staff in cash each month.

That is what is happening here.

The math on this is crazy. Over a year an average 20$ an hour employee who has his cell phone at work is costing you 5000$ or more a year in lost production – just counting the physical time spent looking at the phone. With ten employees that’s 50K a year.  This does not count the double work or mistakes caused by having to distract other staff with some bit of web gossip or a funny video, or any distractions caused by receiving bad news, or even the stress and dropped communication caused by having to hide the cell phone use at work from owners or managers.

It would be cheaper to literally pay each employee 5000$ each year, to not bring their phone into work.

Part III How to handle it.

So everyone in the office has their phone with them. They take the phone to the bathroom with them twice a day and each bathroom break is way longer than it should be. You come around the corner and staff are guiltily putting phones away…you are losing a lot of money and productivity.

Here is how you handle it.

1.     Set a good example. You can’t be seen on your phone all the time doing non work related things.

2.     Figure out who actually needs to have a cell phone with them. It may be no- one. Or, maybe your high producing office manager that gives you up to the moment reports and tracks everything, actually uses their phone to produce!  It’s not true that everyone is negatively affected by their phone. It is the salespersons greatest tool. It is, however, true that very few staff that really need to be on the cell phone at work. Like any tool, it is the correct use of the tool that is the problem- not the tool itself.

Smartphones do not cause lost production themselves of course…its staff who are enslaved by their smartphone causing this lost production.

3.     Get agreement. Go over the reasons why you have decided to put in the no phones at work policy. Make sure you have real goals that your staff are going to be rewarded for when they achieve them. Tie in how the increased productivity will enable them to reach these goals. You cant just slam in rules without putting something positive there to replace it.

4.     Handle objections. The only real objection you will get will be “I have kids and I need to know if they are ok”

Well it’s a miracle the human race got this far eh?

I wonder how we all survived without being able to track our kids, friends, and spouses all day long.

You handle this by explaining that the front desk is always manned and tell them to ensure that everyone that needs to contact them has that number in case of emergency.

It is amazing how few emergencies there really are.

5.     Remove the phones, once everyone has sent the office number to all their emergency contacts. You can either have a special draw the phones go in at the start of the day, or you can have the staff leave phones in the car.

6.     Watch the staff come alive, start becoming more productive and engaged and watch morale and income start soaring!

A final note: If you have difficulty getting the above policy into your office or if your staff refuse to comply, you have way bigger problems that phone use. This would be an indicator that discipline went over the cliff some time ago. We will be covering this topic in future articles on group ethics.

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