When iPhones and smartphones were launched around a decade ago, it transformed the way we relate to our mobiles and catalysed a significant shift in workplace culture. Nowadays, employees feel increasingly compelled to check their Facebook accounts, personal email, Instagram, Twitter and the list goes on.
What is your organisation’s policy on staff usage of personal mobile devices?
Corporate cultures have adapted to accept and even encourage smartphone usage in the workplace. A study on this topic suggests that “using Smartphones in the workplace can be valuable in three ways: promoting autonomy, strengthening relationships with peers as well as superiors, and improving knowledge-sharing.”1
In the Health and Disability sectors, however, staff usage of personal mobile devices during working hours may be problematic. In most hospitals, for example, visitors are encouraged to turn off their mobile phones “so they do not interfere with the operation of medical equipment or disturb others”2 yet hospital staff are noticeably checking their mobile phones at work.
Even though many health-related apps are intended specifically for use by health care professionals, a study assessing smartphone usage in healthcare settings found that distractions caused by smartphones have been associated with an increase in procedural failures and clinical errors, as well as a perception of unprofessional behaviours and worsening of professional relationships.3
In industries where client-centred care and customer service values are paramount, how should managers address this issue?
Here are 3 steps to addressing mobile phones in the workplace:
1. Clarify your organisational values and workplace boundaries. What are your client-care standards and expectations? What factors contribute to a secure environment for both clients and staff?
2. Create a new smartphone usage policy, or update your existing policy. Should staff only be allowed to access their mobile phones in designated areas at designated break times? What are the exceptions? What are the consequences of non-compliance?
3. Communicate your updated policies and consequences clearly and respectfully with your staff. Take the opportunity to instil organisational values and address any questions or concerns that employees may have.
It is important to continuously review your workplace practices to ensure that you are keeping up with cultural or legislative change. At WorkPlacePLUS, we specialise in change management, independent workplace investigations and HR support for the Health and Disability sectors. If you need assistance addressing mobile phone usage in your workplace, or if you would like to discuss other performance management issues, please contact me for a free, no-obligation chat on 0419 533 434 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WorkPlacePLUS is the “Preferred Human Resource and Employee Relations Provider” for Speech Pathology Australia and all of its members.
1. Pitichat, Thiraput (2013) "Smartphones in the workplace: Changing organizational behavior, transforming the future," LUX: A Journal of Transdisciplinary Writing and Research from Claremont Graduate University: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, Article 13. Available at: http://scholarship.claremont.edu/lux/vol3/iss1/13
2. https://www.alfredhealth.org.au/patients-families-friends/before-you-arrive/facilities-services-at-sandringham-hospital and http://www.monashhealth.org/page/Can_I_use_my_mobile_phone_whilst_staying_or_visiting_Southern_Health
3. Gill, P. S., Kamath, A., & Gill, T. S. (2012). “Distraction: an assessment of smartphone usage in health care work settings.” Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, 5, 105–114. Available at: http://doi.org/10.2147/RMHP.S34813