Cell phones are such a normal daily part of our lives that it is hard to remember a time when we didn’t have them around.
Today, we use our cell phones to talk, text, check work and personal e-mail, read the news, record the kids’ latest soccer game – the list goes on and on. Not just cell phones anymore – smart watches and tablets are also commonly used for both personal and business matters.
Unfortunately, many organizations have failed to keep up with the increase in the use of cell phones, smart watches, and similar technology. Some organizations have cell phone policies that are very outdated, dealing only with issues surrounding personal phone calls, while others simply don’t have cell phone policies at all. It is very likely that all of your employees bring a cell phone to work every day, therefore, it is very important to either establish a cell phone policy or update your current policy. When communicated effectively, a cell phone policy educates your employees on the appropriate use of cell phones, helps to protect employees who have business cell phones from tax liability, and can help to safeguard the organization from liability lawsuits.
Some suggestions to keep in mind as you develop or update the organization’s cell phone policy:
- Ask employees to use discretion when using personal cell phones during business hours. Completely prohibiting their use is usually unrealistic.
- Remind employees that they are prohibited from using their personal and/or business-provided cell phones in any illegal, illicit, or offensive manner during business hours. This includes the use of offensive ring tones, displaying offensive pictures, and/or sending offensive material to others in the office.
- Employees should be prohibited from using their cell phone and/or other technology devices (personal or business-provided) while operating a vehicle for work-related purposes. Not only is it dangerous, it can potentially create a liability for the organization.
- Consult your IT manager to determine how accessing company data on personal devices may affect the organization. Modify the policy to reflect data security recommendations.
- Explain that the organization is not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged personal technology devices even when used while conducting business activity.
- If the organization provides company-paid cell phones, be very clear about the ownership of the device. Your policy should also clearly state that all data contained within the device, whether personal or business-related, is the property of the organization. Organizations should have the right to read/view all communications made on the device.
- Limit the personal use of company-paid cell phones to avoid tax liability to the employee.
- Remind employees to be mindful of privacy concerns when using their cell phone. Conversations regarding confidential matters should never be made in public.
- Explain what the consequences will be for violating the policy. Consistently enforce violations to set a tone that policy violations will not be tolerated.
- Finally, make sure your policy is clearly communicated to all employees.
Ask employees to read the policy every year and to sign a statement acknowledging that they’ve read the policy. For some of the matters that apply to your organization the most, consider sending periodic reminder e-mails to employees. For example, one e-mail can remind them about the use of electronic devices while driving on company business, another can remind them about the use of business cell phones for personal matters, etc. The policy will only be effective if employees are familiar with it and know that there are consequences for violating it.