The pros and cons of mobile phones in the workplace

By Posted 27 Mar 2013, 07:31

Employers have been debating about phones in the workplace since the Saved by the Bell brick phone arrived on the scene. Are employees benefiting in business from smartphones enough to justify mobile phone distractions? Here is a look at some of the pros and cons involved in bringing your own device to work.

The Cons: Distracted Co-Workers, Games, & Texts—Oh My!

DISTRACTED WORKERS – Mobile phones are a distraction for co-workers in the office. When people are on their phones for extended periods of time, other employees may catch the tail-end of their conversations. This distracts them because they can’t work in peace. In order to keep work efficiency up, rules should be established for employees who take their cell phones to work.

Men’s Journal did a study on smartphones and found that phone distractions can also cause additional mistakes in the workplace. One example they give is that a distraction of just 2.8 seconds can lead to twice as many mistakes in work. Worse yet, a 4.4 second distraction triples the number of mistakes! The distraction itself leaves workers fuzzy while working, which could be a big issue if the worker is a surgeon or driver.

Furthermore, many people who sneak a peek at their smartphones may find hilarious texts from friends that are worth sharing. Unfortunately, sharing a quick joke with a co-worker has been proven to cut 15 minutes of effective working from their day! Each distraction (from tweets to game alerts) renders an employee useless for a quarter hour on average.

GAMES – We all love playing games, and unfortunately, smartphone apps have become increasingly demanding. For example, if your employee plays The Simpsons—Tapped Out, he or she may feel the urgent need to check-in on time sensitive game missions. With a phone in hand, this sort of distraction is unavoidable at work.

A lot of cell phones today have games on them. This distraction for the workers hinders their effectiveness at work. Workers will focus on playing different games instead of concentrating on getting their work done quickly.

Some games are not okay in the workplace because they may have a lot of noise or vulgar images in them. These types of games distract workers because their attention is elsewhere. Instead of working, people will hear noises from their neighbors who are playing distracting games.

TEXTING – Many people text so frequently that they seem addicted. However, this is usually limited to people in their teen years. Yet, it’s not uncommon to see grown adults hunched down in their swivel chairs, frantically texting spouses and golf buddies while working.

You would think this sort of behavior would be rare, but employers are increasingly concerned with time theft, which is what happens when employees accept wages for texting jokes.

The Pros: Productivity, Mobility, Safety & Morale

PRODUCTIVITY – Mobile phones boost productivity because of business related apps. Apps for email, social networking, note-taking, and calculators all prove quite useful. By having these apps on a mobile phone, people can work with more efficiency.

It benefits the entire company when an employee can check email instantaneously, even from the water cooler or at lunch. For increased productivity, workers can connect to a 4g lte network, and for people who do not use the Internet all the time on their mobiles but still want super fast connection speed, plans such as T-Mobile pay as you go cell plans work best. Whether smartphones are company supplied or on the BYOD (bring your own device) program, they always come in handy for last minute assignments.

Also, apps like Skype allow employees to take part in video conferencing, which comes in handy in today’s workplace. Employees will be able to get deals done with people who live on the other side of the world. Video conferencing increases a business’ efficiency, and this is possible when employees have mobile phones with Skype.

Here are three cool tips from Microsoft on boosting workplace productivity with phones:

  • 1. Access your company’s data with the smartphone
  • 2. Turn your device into a collaboration command center
  • 3. Use it to accomplish more, faster

MOBILITY – Phones allow employees to work from home while ill and from Laguna Beach on vacation. This kind of mobility cannot be over-emphasized: it saves employers time, which ultimately means money.
SAFETY & SECURITY

An important benefit to having phones in the workplace is that people will be able to contact help if an emergency comes to fruition. At times, people may face a life-threatening scenario, such as a burglar in the building. When this happens, having a phone gives workers the ability to contact help to neutralize the situation. Therefore, everyone in the workplace will be safer because they will have to the proper tools to seek help quickly. Here are a few other scenarios for employers to consider:

• Heart Attack – If this situation happens, people working can quickly contact the proper medical staff to come out and treat the person who is suffering. This prevents anything fatal from occurring. Heart attacks are very serious and timing is crucial. Seeking medical treatment for these health problems may save a person’s life, and this is possible when employees have cell phones nearby.

• Catastrophe – If there is a fire in the building, people who have phones can contact the right fire department to come out to extinguish the fire quickly. This prevents workers from sustaining life-threatening injuries that will impact them for the rest of their lives. Some phones have alarms on them, so employees can signal the alarm when they detect smoke or fire.

• Ice Slips – If an employee slips on the ice in front of the company’s building and cannot receive assistance quickly, it could turn into a lawsuit. Employers who disallow phones put themselves in the awkward position of protector and make themselves more liable.
MORALE

The daily grind is taxing on even the most hard-working person. Having a cell phone increases employees’ overall morale because they can quickly call home for support, or see an uplifting tweet from friends. When workers are on their break, they can check their favorite social networking sites. Also, co-workers can share images using phones, creating a sense of unity.

Smartphones with games and movies on them allow workers to enjoy their breaks more. Once they have finished playing a game, their overall outlook of the rest of the day is improved because they have a chance to regroup and relax.

Using cell phones during the break is great, but some employees may simply want to have them to know that everything is okay with their life. Having a cell phone gives them a sense of relief because they will be contacted through a text in case an emergency happens. Thus, workers will not have to worry about missing an important text or call, increasing their overall behavior in the workplace.

Employers must consider all of the pros and cons in a cost/benefit analysis before determining whether to allow mobile phones into the workplace. Unfortunately, many employees show a startling disregard for mere rules about usage. However, the pros prove that most workers are using phones for positive, work-related ends.

Thanks to Shaun Chatman.

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