How to Craft a Cell Phone Usage Policy

cellphoneDo you remember your first cell phone? Maybe it was one of those giant Motorola brick phones or a car phone. Now, technology that was once available only to the most elite is in the hands of the majority of the population.

One of the problems with a technology that has evolved so quickly is the lack of rules governing its use. Lawmakers around the world are debating rules governing cell phone use while driving and businesses are walking the fine line of asking their customers to silence their phones without offending them to the point of losing their business.

As a small-business owner, maybe you are fighting another battle. Are your employees using their phones at inappropriate times? Is it affecting productivity? What you need is a cellphone usage policy. Here’s how to put one together.

Make it Reasonable

Cellphones are no longer a novelty. They are often the only means of communication people have with their spouse, children, or other loved ones. You could argue that the world survived without the use of cell phones for centuries, but it’s an argument you are not likely to win.

It’s reasonable to ask employees to limit cellphone use but leaving the phone in the car or powered down during work hours is probably unreasonable for most professions. Also, take into account state laws before writing your policy.

Company Supplied Phone

If you supply your employees with a smartphone, make it part of your policy that using it while driving is strictly prohibited. That includes taking calls regarding company business unless they have an approved hands free device.

If the company supplied smartphone doesn’t have software that protects company data, don’t allow personal use.

Finally, specify that you have the right to review the usage data, which would include phone records, text, and data usage.

Personal Phones

Personal cell phones should be used sparingly and only for important calls. In unsafe work environments like construction sites, factory floors, or on board aircraft, prohibit use. You cannot mandate that they not use their personal phones while driving but you can prohibit work related calls, texts, or the checking of email.

Pictures and Videos Prohibited

The workplace, regardless of the type of business, should be a secure environment. Prohibit any use of camera phones or video recording inside your building. This is of particular importance in workplaces with sensitive information, security concerns, or children present.

If you don’t want to place a total ban on images and videos, designate certain areas off-limits. These may include restrooms or locker rooms, areas that house proprietary equipment or sensitive documents, or places where using the devices would distract employees from safely operating equipment.

Bottom Line

Because you cannot enact a policy that violates applicable laws, consider consulting with an attorney before publishing any policy document. A policy is only as good as the enforcement that goes along with it. If you do not have the means or the desire to hold employees accountable to a cellphone usage policy, don’t enact it. You could negatively affect the culture of the office, especially if you enforce the policy inconsistently.


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