Manager's Desk: Smart phone policies for shops

July 13, 2017 2:28 pm

By Keith Jennings

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Inevitably, the issue of employees and cell phones will impact your work environment. Cell phones, typically smartphones, have infiltrated machine shops, and employees are inclined to use them during working hours—even on the shop floor. Furthermore, shop owners and managers call employees on the latter’s personal phones for business. Oh, how I remember the days when the “Cell Phone” chapter wasn’t required in the company handbook!

The greatest concern at my company is cell phones’ impact on shop safety. Another factor is the ease and preference of some employees and customers to communicate via cell phone, bypassing the main phone line and the human or automated receptionist. Calling a cell phone may be faster and easier, but it adds difficulty when tracking business calls to and from customers.

There are several interrelated concerns. If a personal cell number is released to business contacts, it’s going to be called during work hours.

What about the other hours? If you contact employees on their personal cell phones after hours, they may understandably expect a contribution to their bill.

There is also the issue of reimbursing an employee for business calls. This past year, we’ve had several demanding jobs and company issues that frequently required calling a few employees outside of regular work hours to get a quick answer or update. It was easy to grab the cell phone and either make a call or start a text-message chat. Although no one complained about it, we realized, over time, that these added contacts were becoming too frequent and disruptive to our employees’ personal time.

We eventually reimbursed a few employees for work-related cell expenses. This decision led to a meeting with an HR professional to get exact guidelines. As a result, we are now more aware of what is appropriate regarding reimbursement and company practices for contacting employees outside of normal work hours.

If you have employees that need to be contacted regularly outside of work, it’s advisable to provide a company cell phone. If one can’t be provided, the company should reimburse employees or provide an allowance.

For employees who don’t mandate a company phone, but may be contacted on occasion, you have to determine your expectations. Do you expect them to answer your call, regardless of the time of day? If so, prepare to cover those costs.

If you do not require employees to take your call away from work, and they’re given the choice of whether to answer or not without any ramifications, then you are not required to reimburse them.

Employees with personal plans that offer unlimited usage may prefer the cell-phone contact without any expectation of reimbursement. If so, that choice is theirs and no company involvement is necessary.

This issue may not involve producing parts, but it is an important one to manage.


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