6 Reasons Employers Should Allow Smartphones in the Workplace
Of all the topics in the modern workplace, the use of smartphones and other personal communication devices has to be one of the most divisive.
Mobile phones have got into almost every aspect of our lives nowadays, but many old school employers have a knee-jerk reaction against their use at work. Let's have a look at just some of the reasons that this is an outdated way of thinking and that smartphones actually help to make a better workplace ...Newsflash: treating employees like schoolchildren makes them act like schoolchildren. Or even worse, it will make them leave your company and seek out a boss who will treat them with a measure of dignity. Educated adults don't appreciate being treated like untrustworthy kids.
Reason 1. Respect breeds respect
Smile, and the world smiles with you!
What? You thought that by banning smartphones, you'd get your own way? Sorry to disturb you from your executive slumber over there, but that's simply not going to happen. Your employees are going crazy on their phones under their desks, in the toilets, and in the smoking area.
"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
Meanwhile, you're making the situation worse by using your phone whenever you like, and they're undermining you by moaning about the whole lopsided situation behind your back. Which leads us on nicely to ...
Reason 2. People work best when they feel valued and trustedRemember your favourite teacher back in school? Remember how they made you feel? We're willing to bet that they didn't need to raise their voice to keep the class in order. Usually it's the teacher who values their students and talks to them like equals who gets the best reviews (and results) come the end of term.
And believe it or not, the same thing goes later in life too. Think about it; most of us have had a boss from hell at some point. Ms shouty; Mr entitled; Dr myopic; Rev 'I know best'. The list goes on. And we're willing to place another wager that you didn't exactly do your best work under their lacklustre tutelage ...
A fallacy as old as money itself ...
It was Machiavelli who said: "it is better to be feared than loved". That's the same Machiavelli they named 'Machiavellianism' after; which is a trait psychologists relate closely with narcissism and psychopathy. Great.
The fact is, that people tend to work best for a person who they feel values them. Showing people that you care as much about their personal life as you do your own is a great way to do this.
So next time you 'bust' an employee sending a text, do consider the fact that there are probably more important things on their mind than spreadsheets, and reflect this in your response. You'll get way more out of it in the long run, we promise.
Reason 3. People aren't fully effective without their smartphones nowLike it or loathe it, people these days are different than they were ten, or even five, years ago. Technology is changing the way we work at a stupendous rate, and companies that fail to recognise this are going to lose out.
As long as people are hitting their targets, why should the boss concern themselves about a bit of texting or Facebooking in the workplace?
With all the talk about recruiting more Millennials and Generation Z workers, you'd think that employers would be doing everything they can to appeal to younger candidates. But the fact is, they aren't.
Once upon a time, mobile phones used to be optional ...
Just look at the recent comments from Liam Harrington - the 25 year old CEO of Unilad (a media channel with about 17.5 million followers on Facebook, by the way). Harrington points out that in industries such as marketing and advertising, it's crucial to bring in candidates of a younger age, who can speak to their peers effectively.
But in order to do this, you have to be prepared to allow younger employees to consume media on their own terms and in the manner they choose. Guess what - 18 and 19 year olds aren't generally seen down at Costa with a copy of the Financial Times under their arm. They're using platforms like Instagram and Snapchat to keep up to date through their phones.
Reason 4. It promotes performance-based managementMost people love to manage their own schedules. Especially in today's digitally-connected world, it shouldn't matter where someone is when they do their work - simply that they complete it to the required standard.
Congratulations! Now help yourself to a drink ...
A key component of this mindset is that employees need to be set targets - goals that they are required to achieve each week, month, or even year. This means that everyone knows where they are up to, and can work towards where they need to be.
What does all this have to do with smartphones in the workplace you might ask? Well the answer is that it simply shouldn't matter what people are doing at work as long as they complete their set tasks, to the required standard, in the timeframe they've been given.
If people don't hit their targets, then the employer should begin to look into why that might be, but as long as they do, why should the boss concern themselves about a bit of texting or Facebooking in the workplace?
Reason 5. Statistics say a thousand wordsAs of 2016, there were around 2.08 billion smartphone users in the world. Yes; we said 2,082,700,000 people - and which was a big increase from the 1.86 billion who owned smartphones in 2015. So these little marvels of communication are on the rise, and they ain't going nowhere.
While 2 billion is still a still small percentage of the world's total population, when you look just at the UK, you see that the proportion is much higher. In fact, as of 2016, 42.4 million people in the UK owned a smartphone.
Statistics: truly the 'grammar' of science!
A study of US government agencies carried out by GCN in 2012 found that more than half of respondents thought that their agency's employees could not do their job effectively without using their mobile devices. That was back in 2012, when the iPhone 5 was still shiny and new!
According to Ofcom, 33% of internet users saw their smartphone as the most important device for using the internet in 2015 - showing just how much the majority of employees depend on their mobile devices to stay up to date.
"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."
So as you can imagine, it's probably a bad idea to deny employees the information they need by cutting them off from the device they're most comfortable using! This is before you even consider any apps they might use to keep organised that are only available for mobile devices.
Reason 6. All of these things will help you to raise employee retentionAll of the points made so far on this page have one thing in common. All of them keep people happy.
And as we know, happy employees = low employee turnover.
Just think about it; even if you were being paid slightly under the odds for your level of experience and qualifications, if an employer treats you right, you're much more likely to stay with them. Happy people do just about everything better - so you'll be glad of their loyalty, too.
Some bosses seem intent on making work harder than it has to be ...
Really, unless your employees are on their phones taking personal calls every second of the day (in which case they won't be hitting any targets, so they'll be in trouble anyway), how much productivity do you realistically think your firm will lose?
In reality, probably not very much. As long as you get everyone to sign up to a fair use policy, you'll probably find that people use their phone a whole lot less than you might fear. So why not trial allowing employees to use their smartphones at work?
We think you might be surprised how trustworthy people are when given responsibility - you did employ them for a reason afterall!
Written by Matt Atkinson