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Cell phone etiquette at work: is personal cell phone use out of control in your organization?

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU HEARD SOMEONE'S CELL PHONE RING AT WORK? IN TODAY'S WIRELESS SOCIETY, EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE CONNECTED, HOWEVER, THOSE PESKY CELL PHONES CAN LIMIT PRODUCTIVITY. UNTIL RECENTLY, COMPANIES HAD CONTROL OF COMMUNICATIONS BY ASSIGNING PAGERS, LIMITING LONG-DISTANCE TELEPHONE USE IN THE OFFICE, AND PROVIDING VOICEMAIL. AT WORK. NOW, LOW-COST SERVICES, INCLUDING UNLIMITED LONG-DISTANCE, ENABLE MOST EMPLOYEES TO CARRY CELL PHONES THAT ALLOW THEM TO SOCIALIZE, SCHEDULE PERSONAL APPOINTMENTS AND CONDUCT PERSONAL BUSINESS ON COMPANY TIME.

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Cell phone use is especially dangerous in the service industry where one-on-one contact with customers is critical. When employees put their cell phone calls above work, they send a message that they lack client respect. The fact remains that employees are paid to work, not to make personal phone calls--even if the calls are made on their personal property (cell phones). As a result, employers now find it necessary to address cell phone use and cell-etiquette in company policy guidelines.

What is Cell-Etiquette?

Cell phone etiquette (cell-etiquette) is common decency manners. For example, answering a cell phone on a business luncheon is a major faux-pas. Imagine how humiliating it is for a potential client to be cast aside in favor of a ringing cell phone.

This "rings" especially true in the service industry, where cell phone use could potentially drive sales out the door. Even so, employees still seem to get away with cell-etiquette violations. Service industry employees use their cell phones for work in theme parks, malls and retail shores. And as cell phones evolve into wireless Internet stations and digital cameras, they become even more of a distraction. To prevent your employees from driving customers away with their poor cell-etiquette, consider the following four tips for establishing guidelines in your company policy.

Tip #1: Issue Company Cell Phones to Those in Need

Only employees who need wireless communication with their managers or floor crews should have cell phones. These phones must be company-issued, because allowing a worker to access their cell phone while on the clock, even for business calls, will not suffice. In doing so, you empower the employee to use his or her personal phone to make calls to friends or family, and then justify them as work-related.

Although they have lost their luster, company pagers are the best option because they usually work when employees are in difficult cell reception areas or inside steel buildings. Pagers are the most effective way of reaching employees in the field or on their off days. They are also smaller and more portable than even the smallest cell phone.

Tip #2: Control Ring Tones

Polyphonic ring tones are another constant irritation and contribute to noise pollution. If your employees must use their phones at work, insist that they be set on vibrate only to eliminate these noisy distractions.

Tip #3: Forbid Digital Cell Phone Photography at Work

Cell phones now double as digital cameras that can be used to take unflattering or compromising pictures. Downloading and sharing these photos on cell phones is becoming more and more popular, almost like a perverse sport. At-work photo opportunities distract the photographer, as well as co-workers from their duties.

Security issues present another reason cell phone photography should be banned from the workplace. If an employee photographs a company's critical or protected assets, outsiders may be able to use the information against them. And, although digital technology has made eavesdropping on calls more difficult, company business may be compromised if the wrong person hears an employee discussing critical security secrets on their cell phones.

Tip #4: Text Messages During Staff Meetings

Cell phone services include text messaging: allowing cell phone users to communicate by passing electronic notes. While still a distraction, this may be an effective alternative to ringing cell phones. This is especially important during staff meetings when interruptions should be kept to a minimum.

Set Usage Guidelines

Management must establish guidelines concerning all types of cell phone use before these interruptions overtake a company. Use the following list of guidelines as a model for cell phone restrictions in your organization:

* No personal cell phones to be carried on company time.

* Only company issued cell phones and pagers on the job.

* Limit cell phone use to lunch and breaks.

* Establish a personal "cell only" break zone.

* Cell space rule: No cell phone use within 20 feet of another employee.

* No ringing cell phones or ring tones of any kind.

* No personal calls at work unless absolute emergency.

* No company business (official or otherwise) to be discussed on cell phones.

Cellular Phone Control in the Future

Customer service is vital to most organizations, and most customers will shop elsewhere if their needs are overlooked while an employee answers a cell phone. While many employees can be taught proper cell-etiquette, such as excusing themselves if necessary to answer a business call, others need more structured guidelines. Cell phones cause distractions. Set guidelines for use within your organization to maintain employee productivity and customer satisfaction.

Gregory Taillon is an authority on media and education, and is the author of a new book titled Remote Control Wars: The Media Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Our Youth. His Web site and e-mail can be found at www.remote-controlwars.com.
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Author:Taillon, Greg
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Words:876
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