How to Stop Employees From Using Their Cell Phones at Work

By Carolyn Luck

Make employees accountable with a cell phone use policy.
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Personal cell phone use in the workplace can cut down on employee productivity and is often distracting to other people in the office. The best way to stop employees from using their cell phones at work is to institute and enforce a cell phone use policy that provides guidelines and consequences that are clearly spelled out.

Step 1

Draft a cell phone use policy that clearly outlines expectations and consequences. Consider problems like distraction and noise level to help establish policy guidelines. Limit cell phone use to breaks only, require silent ringtones and vibrate settings, or prohibit the use of games. Address built-in camera use, which can raise serious issues concerning company security and employee privacy. Consult your managers and IT team to ensure a practical and enforceable policy. Seek final approval from your legal team, if you have one, especially if you’re in a regulated industry such as healthcare or finance.

Step 2

Establish provisions for emergency-related calls. Allow for a reasonable amount of cell phone use on a case-by-case basis. An employee with an ailing dependent might require personal calls more frequently during times of health crisis. Require employees to share their needs, but do not violate personal privacy. Instruct them to notify you before or after taking an emergency call to prevent disciplinary action.

Step 3

Require employees to read and sign the cell phone use policy and keep a copy of their acknowledgement in their employee file. Clearly explain the formal consequences for each policy violation. Issue a set number of verbal and written warnings, which if ignored will lead to suspension or termination.

Step 4

Set a good example for your employees by adhering to policy guidelines at all times. Expect the same from managers. Strictly enforce the policy by enforcing consequences for each new violation.

Step 5

Update the policy annually to accommodate recent changes in company structure and technological advances. Conduct periodic training sessions to reinforce appropriate behavior under the policy.