22nd March 2022

Mobile phones in the workplace: time to call it a day?

There are employers who have a policy on the use of personal mobile phones in the workplace that, typically, place an outright ban on their use during working hours or restrict personal use in the event of, say, an emergency. (Top tip: if you have such a policy or intend to put one in place make sure to cover the use of smart watches.) However, ask the same employers how many of them have disciplined any employee for a breach of the policy and it is likely to be relatively few. This may be, of course, because their employees are adept at hiding what they are really up to.

Those employers that don’t have such a policy might be asking why one is necessary. The answer will depend largely on the business. For example, there might be health and safety reasons as to why mobiles should not be permitted. Or the business may wish to ensure that its customer facing staff are giving their customers, and not their mobiles, their full attention.

However, there have been a number of studies that have shown that mobile phones affect the brain’s ability to hold and process data. In one experiment, participants were randomly instructed to place their mobile phone either on their desk face down, in their pocket or bag, or in another room before being asked by researchers to take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well.   The participants with their mobile in another room significantly outperformed those with their mobile on the desk and slightly outperformed those who had kept their mobile in a pocket or bag.

If all it took to improve your employee’s performance and therefore your business’ productivity was to ban the use of mobiles, would you consider introducing a ban and even discipline any employee who flaunted that ban?  Where an employee has a work-issued mobile, perhaps there is an argument that it should be put away for part of the working day.

For any employer willing to conduct its own experiment, just don’t forget to have Occupational Health on speed dial to help deal with the withdrawal symptoms!

If you would like advice on how to draft a mobile phone policy and how to enforce it or any other employment law related matter contact Blackadders Employment Team in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and across Scotland.

Donna Reynolds employment law partner

Donna Reynolds, Partner
Accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as a Specialist in Employment Law & Discrimination Law


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