By Lara Copeland, assistant editor
The American Mold Builder
Cellphones – especially smartphones – have become an integral part of everyday life. Designed to be tools of efficiency, they also can be disruptive and distracting. In addition to simply talking on the phone, people now can take pictures or video, purchase groceries, send and receive email, play games and much more.
In order to maintain a safe, distraction-free and productive working environment, many manufacturing companies have put cellphone policies in place to help employees. The American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) has collected 34 cellphone policies from US manufacturers to provide a glimpse into what companies consider when forming their policies for using cellular devices.
While some company cellphone policies are only a few sentences long, others are much more detailed, leaving little room for misunderstanding. The briefer policies typically state that cellphones (and oftentimes electronic devices in general) are not allowed on the production floor, and some companies add that such devices aren’t even to be used on break, during lunch, etc. On the other hand, several AMBA member policies offer a more thorough code of conduct. Typically, these companies require the employee to take calls during a break or at lunch. Most members permit cellphone use in cafeterias, break rooms, locker areas and smoking areas.
Some situations call for an exception to the rule, and many of the manufacturers realized that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best option for a company’s cellphone policy. Multiple companies give exceptions for management, employees using the phone for business purposes and in times when an employee is expecting an urgent call. A handful of the companies in this review did acknowledge the fact that emergencies happen, and therefore have a policy for how to handle these calls. Having designated phone lines, intercom systems or messaging processes, assures the employee that he/she will receive emergency messages. With a backup plan in place, the company communicates to employees that it values safety as much as it does its employees’ need to communicate for emergency purposes.
Takeaway: In addition to designating when cellphones may be used, a company policy also should designate where use is permitted.
Trade secret protection
With the ability to record video and utilize a wide array of apps – especially social media – many of the 34 companies in this study referenced the need to protect trade secrets and other confidential company information. The consensus is that employees are not to use cellphones to record video of any type while in the facility. When it comes to social media, companies are adding stipulations for its use within their cellphone policies. Some manufacturers’ policies allow time to access social media during breaks, though these policies often state that employees should not post company information – including pictures, video, etc. – on any social media pages without the expressed permission of an HR director or other supervisor.
Takeaway: If privacy and/or trade secret information is of concern, specific policies should be spelled out regarding social media and video recordings at work.
Visitors to the workplace
A handful of member policies consider the visitor’s need to be informed of the cellphone policy, and conveying the cellphone policy to the visitor is usually the responsibility of the employee whom the visitor is on site to see. It may be a security or safety risk if visitors are not made aware of the policy, so all employees should know who is responsible for explaining the policy to guests upon arrival. In addition, cellphone policies should be posted at facility entrances if the policies apply to visitors.
Takeaway: Employees are not the only people who need to know a company’s cellphone policy.
Using cellphones for business purposes is common practice, particularly as companies implement mobile workspaces and data collection systems. Whether it’s making phone calls, storing files, maintaining important contacts or sending and receiving email, employees at many companies conduct business and handle sensitive information on cellular devices – both during and after typical work hours. Some policies surveyed require an employee using a cellphone for business purposes to have the phone password-protected, which helps eliminate security threats should the phone be stolen or go missing.
Acceptable business use within the facility should be spelled out, and information should be provided to employees detailing when an employee is responsible for answering phone calls and emails, checking production data, etc., if such things are expected outside of typical working hours.
Additionally, a company may choose to participate in a reimbursement plan for employees using cell phones for business-related calls. One particular manufacturer established guidelines for such occurrences, describing who is eligible, the process to obtain reimbursement and the amount to be reimbursed.
Takeaway: When cellphones are used for business purposes, clear expectations should be outlined for use, monitoring and reimbursement.
The use of cellphones when driving should be addressed within any company policy. There are two manners in which the cellphone policy may affect the driver: One is when an employee is driving on company business, and the second is when an employee is driving and has a company phone in his or her possession.
In the cellphone policies reviewed, most make it clear that employees are to know and follow the state and city driving laws. Furthermore, each employee needs to know the policy for using hands-free devices, text messaging, sending emails, browsing the internet and talking on the phone while driving. Companies should consider who is liable should an accident occur due to cellphone usage while the employee is behind the wheel.
Takeaway: Policies should provide clear guidelines for safe use while in a moving vehicle for employees with company driving responsibilities and/or those carrying work cellphones.
Damage at work
Outlining who is responsible for the cost to replace a cellphone – whether it be a personal or business phone – lost or damaged at work is important. Determining whether it matters how the damage happened and including a caveat regarding responsibility for damaged equipment can help eliminate any uncertainty for potential grievance. Many policies mention that the company will not be liable for the loss of personal cellphones/electronic devices brought into the workplace.
Takeaway: Responsibility for loss or damage of mobile devices should be spelled out.
About half of the policies reviewed provide a specific plan for disciplining employees who do not abide by the company’s expectations. These actions fall on a broad spectrum, ranging from a warning to immediate termination. For example, one policy provides a five-step system and tracks the occurrences on a calendar-year basis. The first occurrence results in an oral warning, followed by a written warning for the second occurrence. The third and fourth occurrences result in one- and three-day suspensions, respectively. The fifth occurrence ends in termination, pending an investigation by human resources.
Takeaway: Consequences for noncompliance with a company cellphone policy should be clear and communicated to each employee.
Each cellphone policy is as varied as the companies that developed them; however, there are a few things each company should consider when crafting its cellphone policy.
- Each one needs to be tailored to meet the specific culture of the company.
- The wording should be clear and unambiguous to effectively communicate expectations regarding appropriate conduct with cellular devices.
- Policies should be updated annually to eliminate antiquated regulations and protect employees and the workplace.
To purchase the full report, visit www.amba.org.