Modernizing Employee Policies
It was only a few years ago that policies regarding the use of fax machines and voice mail were developed for those new technologies. Now we need policies for the use of cell phones, text messaging, Internet access, I-pods, e-mail, and other new communication methods. These devices have become available to nearly everyone and many employees do not realize how much time can be wasted if their use is not limited.
Each business needs to develop “Use of Technology” policies that fit their situation. Concerning I-Pods or other entertainment devices, some employers have safety concerns and feel that any device that has a cord, something that goes around the head or neck, or anything that can get caught in gates or other equipment is a significant hazard. Others feel that certain types of these devices are safe and are a way of reducing the monotony of some jobs—so long as they are used responsibly. In fact, some employers use this as a way of compensating for these mundane duties.
The use of personal cell phones is becoming a challenging issue for many businesses. There is a benefit to allowing employees to use their personal phones while at work. The company does not have to pay for the phone, the employee is responsible for their own service and equipment, and the only calls that are paid by the employer are the ones directly related to work.
The down-side of allowing employees to use personal cell phones is that it is harder to control their use and many employees feel “entitled” to use them at their discretion. It is important for all employees to understand that the use of this personal equipment while at work is a privilege—not a right—and that continuing to use it may be based on their ability to use it appropriately. The bottom line is that each employer has to develop a workable policy for these issues based on their circumstances, the needs of their employees and the ability of their staff to use these technologies appropriately.
A good “Use of Technology” policy includes statements for:
§ Appropriate usage—work related, emergency or short notice of schedule change.
§ Time of use—break time, lunch time or time “off the clock.”
§ Length of use—limited to 2 to 3 minutes per call.
§ When never used—while operating equipment or vehicles, while handling livestock, when in meetings or when talking to another person face-to-face (i.e. common courtesy)
§ Other limits—no text messaging except during break times away from equipment.
§ Result of not following policy—possible outcomes in accordance with disciplinary policies.
For a sample policy statement concerning the use of technology or any other employee management issue, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.