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Personal Cell Phone Use in the Office

After taking the summer off we are ready to resume weekly blogging! Let’s talk about personal mobile device use in the office.

The world’s first mobile phone call was made on April 3, 1973 but it would take approximately another 20 years before they became commonplace for the everyday person. Today, our cell phones do more than just make calls. Our mobile devices are mini-computers in our pockets. Everything is at our fingertips…social media, texts, the internet, shopping, banking, and so much more. And, yes, they still make phone calls too! So with everyone tethered to their mobile devices, what impact does that have on office productivity?

A survey of 600 employees by the staffing firm Office Team found that employees spend an average of 56 minutes per day on the phone. This number is 43% higher than managers estimated it to be. It seems there is a lot of sneaky cell phone use going on in the office. Perhaps, not surprisingly, millennials (those employees ages 18-34) self-report an average of 70 minutes per day.

So why is it so hard for us to put down the phone? It is still up for debate if “cell phone addiction” is a real condition. But the term “nomophobia”, the fear of being without a cell phone, has been coined. So what causes addiction? Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is the “feel-good” chemical released when we experience pleasure or reward. According to Psychology Today “Dopamine helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.” We are all familiar with Pavlov’s dog. Only today, it’s not a bell that gets us going. It’s the ding of a text or notification. Or the instant gratification received when making a post on social media, shopping through a mobile app, or reaching out to others. People can get stuck in a dopamine loop, constantly seeking the stimulus to release the dopamine that makes them feel good.

Obviously, lost productivity in the workplace has a tangible effect on a company’s bottom line. But there are other effects that are perhaps not as obvious.

  • Work quality suffers due to distractions

  • Stress in the work place on those employees who feel they are “picking up the slack”

  • Pressure on managers who feel they must “police” mobile device use

Forming a company policy regarding personal mobile device use in the office helps set up workplace expectations and clear outlines of how policy infractions will be addressed. When crafting this policy you will want to take into account your office environment and culture. Are there a lot of clients and/or visitors to your office? Do you have an open floor plan or more private workspaces for employees? Some other issues you might want to think about.

  • Limit personal cell phone use to break times and emergencies

  • Ringers must be set to silent

  • Restricted use of cell phone cameras to protect other employees’ privacy

The fact is, mobile devices are here to stay. Having a policy that clearly defines workplace expectations can help alleviate some of the productivity loss that personal mobile device use might cause. DeNovo HRConsultanting can help you craft a policy that works for your company!

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