First, we want to state that addiction is always a problem and requires help. Unfortunately, smartphone addiction is good for businesses. This month we will take a brief look at smartphone addiction and how businesses are taking full advantage of their employees’ reliance on their mobile devices.
The mobile phone hasn’t always been as accepted as it is today. In fact, only a few short years ago over 50 percent of businesses had some type of anti-smartphone policy written into their employee handbook. Most of them simply said no cell phone usage at work. As with any major trend, however, many business leaders realized that they could either accept the facts and embrace mobile phone use or have their business ruined by it.
This has led many employers to enact policies that confuse users and ultimately cost the business more than the productivity they claim to have lost from employees using smartphones. Some of it is done for legitimate reasons such as network security or time management, but some is done to simply keep some modicum of control over the workspace. In fact, over a quarter of polled workers claim to be completely baffled by their company’s mobile policy because it contains confusing language.
To summarize most business’ mobile device policies: Employees can use their devices freely… as long as they are being used for work.
Since many business leaders have been adamant that their workplace productivity is ruined by the use of smartphones, they have come up with a policy that works for both parties. You accept that by using your smartphone on the business’ network that they have dominion over your phone while you are on that network. You’d think that a lot of people wouldn’t be okay with this trade-off, but a resounding number of people sign off just to be able to use their phones.
Because they could be addicted.
Most of the time, we consider technology in the workplace to be an unmitigated good, driving productivity and efficiency higher and higher. In the case of smartphones, it is a completely mixed bag, but one thing is for certain: chances are good that your employees are addicted to their smartphones.
You probably are too. In fact, over 90 percent of polled participants in a KDM Engineering poll believe that smartphone addiction is real. 40 percent admit to looking at their phone while they cross the street.
Addiction is sad, and in this case, businesses are taking full advantage of it.
That may not sound fair, but what else could you call it when a business knows that their people touch their phones hundreds of times per day on average, spending over an hour of their workday on them, and instead of taking steps to help people control their addiction, they utilize it for the benefit of their business? Businesses have given up trying to control people’s uncontrollable need to check their phones and are now utilizing this culture-wide behavior to drive collaboration efforts, customer service initiatives, and worse yet, off-the-clock work.
The justification for this strategy is that if employees can waste time at work on their phones, that the trade off is access to employees when they are out of the office. It is presented as a benefit to them too. Have you ever heard something like this when your business is pushing a new app to put on your phone? “Now you can stay connected with the team all the time.” The fact is that in order to allow people to waste time on their personal devices, businesses enact policies that will allow them to recoup that investment and then some. With so many people checking their phones over a thousand times a day, they don’t think much of it to answer an email or a direct message or take a call from a co-worker or client hours when they are off the clock.
Firstly, nobody thinks they are addicted to their phones, until you take them away. Ask the HR professional at the 20 percent of businesses that flat out deny phone use in the workplace. The turnover rates at these businesses are over two times higher than your average business.
Recruitment gets expensive, so not allowing smartphones isn’t ideal.
—You could provide your staff with a phone and a data and service plan. This would allow you to effectively lock down the parts of your employees’ phones that could be a hindrance to productivity while still giving them a reason to not leave.
This strategy is even more expensive, also not always ideal.
You could just allow your people to use their phones when they want and monitor productivity to ensure that they aren’t wasting too much time on their personal devices.
This strategy is risky and potentially the most expensive. Again, not ideal.
The best way to go about it is to make sure that you acknowledge that your employees’ mobile devices are a big part of their lives and provide information about healthy mobile device use. That’s really all you have to do (or can do). If you tell your workers that you have no intention of keeping them from using them as long as they follow the rules while they are at work—which would be adhering to a company Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy—that allows your business’ mobile device management to manage a work profile while leaving the rest of the device free from oversight. This way, business applications and data are secure on your employees’ devices and your staff has the freedom to use their phones how they see fit.
It’s a compromise, yes, but one that will likely cost your business less capital, and your staff less angst.
Workers need their smartphones, and if you would like to talk to one of our IT professionals about how to balance this need with the needs of your business, give us a call at (703) 821-8200 today.