Mobile-phones in the workplace – new survey finds mistrust and mixed reactions, even when used for work

Does your company allow phones in the office?  It’s certainly a controversial issue.  Some employers have formal policies that govern when or where workers may use their mobile phones.  Some workplaces ban them altogether.

Where it gets a little trickier is where policies do not entirely forbid them, or restrict their use to certain areas, but instead use disapproving looks and sarcastic comments to make it clear that their usage is frowned upon.

In some workplaces, employees actually use their phones for work – but it seems many employees still don’t feel comfortable even if they are using their private phones for work.  New research from workplace performance platform, Nudge Rewardsreveals that only 40% of employees felt that trust was a big issue around mobile devices in their workplace:

  • 41% worry that either their manager or customers will think they are using their device for personal reasons, even though they are using them for work reasons
  • 30% are forced to use their devices discreetly for fear of being judged by their manager
  • 29% believe that trust is an issue in their workplace when it comes to mobile devices

Despite bring your own device (BYOD) at work becoming commonplace in non-desk based sectors, such as retail and hospitality, it seems there is still widespread confusion and managerial ‘mistrust’ around mobiles in the workplace.  Across sectors, less than a quarter of employees (23%) say that they are actively encouraged to use mobile devices in the workplace.

While a nearly a third (31%) of employees said they are not allowed to use personal devices at work, a further quarter (26%) said they are confused about personal device policy at work.  In addition, almost a third (29%) of frontline staff said trust around mobile devices is an issue, with managers and senior teams not trusting employees to use devices responsibly.

Nearly half (49%) of employees who serve customers claim mobiles make them more efficient at work, with 32% using their connected devices to answer customers’ questions, meaning they can enhance the consumer experience and drive additional conversions. A further 33% use their mobiles to communicate with colleagues about work related issues, enabling them to speed up internal communication throughout the organisation and breakdown information bottlenecks.

However, in spite of the benefits mobile-use brings to frontline staff, 41% worried either their employer or customers would assume they are using their device for personal purposes, even when they are using it for work-related activities, prompting them to use their mobile discretely for fear they are being judged by management for.

Gary Topiol, Managing Director EMEA at Nudge Rewards, believes that BYOD can be used effectively for business, but when they do so, more trust is needed:

“Even in this digital age, it’s clear there is a disconnect between what benefits mobile devices and BYOD policies can deliver – both in terms of consumer experience and organisational efficiencies – and managerial mistrust around employees’ use of mobiles in the workplace.  To ensure that staff have the tools they need to effectively fulfil their role and deliver against heightened customer expectations, companies need to place more trust in their employees and embrace BYOD usage to ensure they can provide the best customer service possible.”

With confusion and mistrust on both sides seemingly high, we asked Pam Rogerson, HR Director for employer advice service ELAS how businesses ‘should’ handle mobile phones in the workplace.  She discusses how employees and employers can handle the issue better with clear policies:

Bring your own device environment?

If you work in an industry where BYOD is commonplace then it’s important that employers trust staff to use their mobile phones for work purposes only. If communication of this kind is a requirement of the job though, the employer should be providing the correct tools! If it is generally accepted rather than required then, again, the employer should have no reason to complain if employees are using their own devices and call charges to aid the business but there should be a clear work instruction or policy to cover this.

It’s important to establish ground rules, and managers should lead by example

As with any potential distraction during work hours – whether that’s personal phone calls, social media or texting there is a need for employees to show self-control, but it also requires effective management. As a manager it’s important to establish ground rules for behaviours and set a good example for your team. As an employee, if clients or co-workers are relying on you then you have to make sure that distractions don’t impact on your ability to perform.

Banning mobiles altogether?

If you work in an industry where mobile use is prohibited then there should be a clear and precise policy to cover this detailing the actions to be taken in the event of a breach. Use of mobiles in this scenario can only lead management to assume they are using their device for personal reasons.

A sneaky look at Facebook?

Pam warns that the 30% of respondents who said they feel they needed to use their mobiles discreetly are much more likely to arouse suspicion; HR or management will know one way or the other and there should be no reason to hide usage if you are on the phone for business purposes. As an HR manager this would be a big red flag.

Finally – a word about driving

It goes without saying that if your business has employees who drive during the course of their work, you should already have a policy in place banning the use of mobile devices while driving – but if you don’t putting one in place should be an absolute priority.


Author: Editorial Team

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