1st June 2015
Your employee walks into the office. He sits down at his desk, switches on his computer and starts to work. An hour into his working day, you hear the buzz of a phone. He looks away from the screen, reaches into his pocket, takes out his phone, reads the screen and then begins to type a response.
Is this a situation that an employer should fear? Are smartphones the enemy of productivity? Before you ban them completely, why not take a look at six reasons to let your staff use their smartphones in the office?
1) To Deal with Personal Issues…
We once spoke to a team leader that was happy for her team members to use their phones for whatever they wanted to do within working hours. Why? Here is her reasoning:
“Personal issues are a distraction. If someone is worrying about the fact that they forgot to give their son his lunch money, or that they bought the wrong product online and need to cancel their order, they’re not going to be working to their full potential. Their mind is elsewhere – you might get half of them at best. Often it takes 10 minutes for an issue to be resolved by phone, email or text, and then your employee’s mind is clear again. You get the whole worker back, and they’ll get more done overall.”
The same applies for short breaks, even without any pressing concerns to deal with. We live in the era of constant communication and 4 or 5 hours can be a very long time to go without checking if someone has wanted to contact you. With short breaks to check personal emails and Facebook, most employees quickly get back on track and work harder. Very few will abuse the privilege, and in the event that they do your company policy can always be readjusted.
2) Because Breaks Refresh the Mind…
The mind is not made to work for a long time without taking a break.
Studies show that regular breaks actually improve concentration, making people more productive than they would be if they worked non-stop for hours. Those breaks don’t need to take long – a one-minute check of a phone, or a short level of Candy Crush, is enough to get the mind back on track.
3) Because Other Businesses Are Open Only When Yours Is…
GP appointments, sight tests and dental appointments are amongst the important appointments that might only be scheduled by phone. More and more companies are offering online booking, but we’re not there just yet. If everyone tries to book an appointment on their lunch break then phone lines are flooded and people can’t get through. They might waste their whole lunch break trying to speak to a receptionist, and might still not get anywhere.
If you expect people to be in from 9am until 5pm, and if their dentist is only open from 9am until 5pm, then they might struggle to get important dental care. Your employees will appreciate the opportunity to make important calls during office hours, when other businesses are only open whilst your employees are supposed to be working.
4) Because Your Employees Might Promote Your Business…
If you provide a good working environment, and if people are proud to have their name associated with your company, then they might use their own social media accounts to promote your business. They might share blog posts that they’ve written, might encourage family and friends to enter a company competition or could simply share something work-related that they’re excited about. Your employees are amongst your best promotional tools.
5) Because a BYOD Business Can Save Money…
Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) is a working agreement where people use their own smartphones, tablets and laptops rather than company equipment. Businesses don’t need to invest in hardware for their employees, or worry about paying out if that hardware becomes damaged.
Employees benefit from having their work equipment with them wherever they go. Another benefit for the employee is that they can work with hardware and software that they’re comfortable using, as long as their choice is compatible when required – if someone’s more comfortable using an iPhone than an Android device, or a Windows phone than a Blackberry, then they won’t be forced to use a device that isn’t the most suitable for them.
6) Because The Deal Can Work Both Ways…
A bit of mutual respect can go a long way in the working environment, and can provide a benefit for both employee and employer.
Employers often ask their employees to be on call, or to check their emails at home, or to ‘just do a little bit of work in the evening’. It’s far easier to expect your employee to give up a little of their own time at home if you give them a little of their own time at work.
Are There Times When This Won’t Work?
Of course, there are many examples of jobs that simply don’t work with smartphones. Nobody wants an actor to take a call halfway through a scene that’s being filmed for a movie, a footballer can’t send a text in the middle of a match and a medical professional can’t pause in the middle of surgery to respond to a message on Facebook, but for office jobs and a number of other professions there might be no real reason to ban all smartphone use.
The key is to test and experiment. Try it out. If allowing people to use their smartphones doesn’t work, and if people start to take liberties, then scale it back or ask people to stop using their phones completely.
Home lives and work lives are merging more than ever before. There are no longer distinguishable lines between the two. People don’t stop working at 5pm when they leave the office, and their lives don’t stop at 9am when they arrive at work the next day. By allowing smartphone use, you can be a progressive employer that respects that the blurring of the lines can actually benefit both parties.