Texting: The Key to Controlling the Latest Distraction
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but sneakiness is the father. Just ask any employer who is trying to curb the use of iPhones and Blackberries in the workplace. Some employees are so good at texting that they can do it without looking. Secret Texting could be the next Olympic sport: "Look at that! A 360 behind the back twist while checking movie times in his sweatshirt pocket! That should rate at least a 56.7, Bob."
Employers have to decide if they want to keep employees from checking in with their BFF while they should be helping customers. Diligent, consistent enforcement is going to be key. Some companies outlaw cell phones altogether - not even allowed in the building. If you can't live without your phone, you should get a job at the phone company. The thinking here: If it ain't within reach, it can't be used. Other employers have decided to allow their employees to text while on breaks: They figure if they offer a time for their use, the employee will wait until then. Hmmm.
Lawsuits are appearing in this arena: Blogging nasty things about your boss, hackers in your social media site, freedom of speech, and privacy issues are all in play. If an employee texts f-worded threats to his supervisor for changing his schedule is that free speech? If an employee is fired for no-call, no-show, but says she texted her boss that she was sick, is that sufficient notice? Should she be reinstated? If the employee agrees to pay for text characters over a certain limit on the company's phone, can the company limit what is said or is this a privacy issue?
I tell my clients that this is just the latest distraction at work. Be consistent or you can't expect compliance. Do you allow personal phone calls? Are friends allowed to come visit your employees while they are on the clock? Do you care if your employees come in a few minutes late or are you a stickler for being on time? Do you have filters on the computers so that your staff cannot access porn sites and Facebook? How much control do you want over the myriad distractions in the workday? When you know the answer to this question, then you will know the policy you need to put into place.
Here are two abbreviated samples:
1) Engaging in social networking and texting during your day can negatively impact your productivity and work performance. Therefore, it is your responsibility to regulate your social networking and texting so that it does not impact your productivity or cause you performance issues.
2) Employee's own electronic media is not to be used during work hours on the work premises under any circumstances. Texting and the use of Internet based programs such as Facebook, [etc.] are in violation of Company policy and use of these programs either on Company owned property or on your personal property during work hours on the work premises can result in discipline up to and including termination.
In either case, consistent enforcement - as always - is key.