Last Updated on April 8, 2016
Employers have been debating over mobile phones in the workplace since those bulky, prototype cellphones of the 1980s were first introduced over a quarter of a century ago.
The question is whether its use is justified in the office or if it’s too much of a distraction and encourages unprofessionalism. With a mobile phone at our disposal at all times, it’s too easy to blur the lines between what takes place in our professional and personal lives.
The Pros of Permitting Smartphone Use in the Office
When the first BlackBerry was introduced, it was designed with business women and men in mind. Since then, smartphones have followed suit with a whole library of business-related apps. There are quite a number of apps out there for note-taking, social networking, emailing and organizing.
This promotes efficiency as it allows staff members to organize their schedule, create a to-do list and quickly communicate with clients through conference calls or bulk SMS. Having a cell phone in the workplace is beneficial in the following ways as well:
- Staff members can be contacted at any time even when they are not in the office.
- Reservations can be made and itineraries confirmed quickly and efficiently for business-related travel.
- The phone’s PDA can be used to set notes and reminders much in the same way as a paper organizer.
- Emails from clients and fellow staff members can be received and responded to them in a timely manner.
- By allowing employees to communicate through their own personal mobile devices, companies can save money as it means not having to invest in company-issued devices like VOIP systems.
- It improves workplace morale. Nobody looks forward to an eight-hour workday in an office cubicle – by not restricting mobile phone use, employees will have at least some sense of leeway and freedom.
Why Cell Phone Use in the Office May Not Be Such a Good Idea
Just as phones have the potential for increasing workplace productivity, they can also hinder it if their use is not kept in check. In fact, one study shows that being distracted for even just 2.8 seconds can double the number of mistakes made in the workplace. A distraction of 4.4 seconds triples the number. Phones can adversely affect the work environment in the following ways:
- Having a mobile phone at all times will encourage people to unleash their inner chatterbox. When work gets slow and employees feel “zoned out,” they may be tempted to place a call or exchange texts with their significant other instead of filing that time-sensitive report.
- Just as students pass notes in class, coworkers may secretly exchange texts. One staffer may share a text, photo or video of a hilarious nature, and that can lead to giggles and small talk instead of focusing on the task at hand.
- Since most people use their phone for work, they may have company-related information stored inside. Think about the implications involved if the phone was stolen, hacked or fell in the wrong hands.
- If an employee leaves the company, that person may still have sensitive, work-related data stored in his or her phone. This is a serious risk in a sales environment. What if clients continue to call that number directly or if the ex-employee is hired by a competing company?
Balance is the Key
The implications of cell phone use in the office can be both positive and negative. It has the potential for boosting work productivity but can also just as well lead to lackadaisical behavior. Ultimately, it is up to employers to enforce guidelines regarding mobile phone use; likewise, employees need to police themselves and realize when using their phone use is affecting their work or that of those around them.