Managing Smartphone Use in the Office

Smartphones are part of our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean they should be a pervasive part of our professional lives.

They do have their place: They help us stay organized, connected and able to complete work on the go through email and apps. However, many employees ignore basic phone etiquette. A recent survey from the consulting firm KDM found that, while 70 percent of those surveyed agree that it’s inappropriate to have their phone out during a work meeting, 53 percent do it anyway.

As a manager, this can be a touchy issue because it’s difficult to know if and how often your employees are using their phones for work or personal reason s . However, it’s important to draw boundaries without stifling your employees’ creativity or ability to work flexibly and efficiently.

Here’s how to set standards without making workers feel that you are the phone police.

Set the example.

The first step to set the right tone for office smartphone use is to lead by example. You can’t require your employees to put their phones away if you aren’t able to do so yourself. If your employees always see you on the phone — in meetings or otherwise — they will assume that it’s OK for them to have their phone out regularly at work. The same KDM study found that 20 percent of those surveyed check their phones every 20 minutes.

Ask yourself:

— How often am I on my phone at work?

— Do I have the habit of checking or answering my phone during meetings, even via text, if it’s not an urgent matter?

— What percentage of time do I spend handling personal items on my phone while at work?

[See: 7 Secret Opportunities You’re Missing at Work.]

If you aren’t sure, track your phone use for one full week. Apple’s iOS 12 operating system provides you with a chart of your phone use daily and weekly, and you can also find other apps to track your usage. Analyze how much of your time at work was spent on unnecessary items and make adjustments as needed. For example, if you have an Apple phone, you can program “Downtime” so that only apps and phone numbers you choose will be available during particular times.

Identify the issue.

If you notice that your employees are constantly checking their phones or using them during meetings, try to find out what they’re doing.

— Are they simply taking meeting notes?

— Are they jotting down ideas for an upcoming project?

— Are they bored or does the meeting not relate to them?

— Are they multitasking and unaware of how often they pick up their phones?

[See: 16 Low-Stress Jobs.]

To help you uncover the reason, consider devoting part of your next meeting to discussing rules for smartphone use.

During the workshop, discuss the following ideas:

— How do your employees view their phones?

— How do smartphones help them accomplish their work?

— What apps do they find especially helpful for work tasks and why?

— When do they feel it is inappropriate to use their phones while at work?

— When can they use their smartphones for personal use at work? (During breaks, lunch hour, emergencies, etc.)

— How to implement rules and consequences for excessive smartphone use. (Your company may already have rules in place for cellphone use. Check with your human resources department and use the opportunity to review the rules with your employees.)

— What tools can they use to help them manage smartphone use?

Programming a meeting in a workshop style is a great way to help everyone become more open and proactive about managing their smartphone use. While you want your employees to understand how excessive phone use affects company time and productivity, don’t use the meeting to criticize people. Instead, make it fun, informative and helpful. Get their support regarding what changes need to be made.

[See: What 9 Passive-Aggressive Office Comments Really Mean.]

Implement rules.

Discuss ways that you can work together to control smartphone use during work. For example, during meetings, should the rule be to put all phones on airplane mode, place all phones on a table or simply not bring them? Present ideas to your employees based on your industry and company needs and ask for feedback. Letting employees have a share in the process increases the likelihood that they will respect the rules.

This may take some time, especially if you have never addressed the issue with your employees before. If you notice that there are still a few employees in particular who are having trouble controlling their smartphone use, schedule a meeting with them to discuss the issue privately. If they are simply bored at work, should they take on extra projects? If they are way too attached to their phones, can you provide them with any information to help them?

By helping your employees to respect phone etiquette at work, and enabling them to be engaged in the process, they will feel more productive and fulfilled.

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Managing Smartphone Use in the Office originally appeared on usnews.com