Workplace expert Jane Harper says in order to deal with a situation when there is excessive cell phone usage at the workplace, imposing restrictions is not always the solution. At times, all you need is a fresh approach to the problem.

Hi Jane,

I am the HR manager at an advertising agency which deals with producing unique content for our clients to give their brands an attractive edge in the market. In order to ensure maximum creative production, we are not very rigid about the workplace environment. The company believes in giving its employees the liberty to work the way they want as long as they complete their work before the given deadline. This means that we have no dress code, flexible work timings, freedom to play music, work from any place in the office, and no restrictions on cell phone usage. Often I have noticed that the employees are taking advantage of the freedom they have been granted for their own convenience. I have observed that not only a majority but all of them are on their phones ALL THE TIME! They are either texting, clicking pictures, or shopping online.

I have orders from my boss that I can put no sort of restrictions on them. But I can clearly see that the work productivity is being hindered due to the lenient behavior on my part. I get frustrated when I see the lack of work engagement in the office and can do nothing about it. My hands are tied. Is there any way in which I can reduce the cell phone usage without putting any sort of restrictions on them?

Q&A with Jane

Excessive cell phone usage is one of the most common workplace problems.

Answer:Excessive Cell Phone Usage Without Restrictions

The problem of excessive cell phone usage has become a global issue these days at all kinds of offices. Employers, team managers, as well as HR managers have this issue wherever you go. Technology is a boon to make the business grow and help the employees stay connected, but using it for personal conversations at work is where the strings need to be pulled. I understand that you can’t propose severe punishment for the offenders due to the liberal workplace environment. Even if you impose restrictions, it’s not always the best solution. This is because employees may end up increasing the use out of spite or lose their interest in work. This is why one must deal with such a situation tactfully.

According to my assumptions, you must be working in a lively environment with a bright office. Use the workplace environment to your benefit. Put up fun facts in an attractive manner about how the time spent on one’s cell phone can be made productive. Another way to do so is come up with unique activities for this. Offer perks such as extra breaks or free lunch to the person who uses it the least. This will not only involve your employees but the competitive spirit will compel them to put their phones aside. If none of this works, you need to approach your boss about it. Tell him that you don’t want to put restrictions but all you want is the authority to have a one-on-one conversation with them for the same. And lastly, don’t forget to keep your cell phone aside first! *wink*

Q&A with Jane: The brutal and straightforward answers to HR-related queries and concerns. Send in your queries with the subject line ‘Ask JANE HARPER’ at [email protected]

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