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Mobile Madness: How to Get Employee Cell Phone Use Under Control

It seems that no matter where you go, you run into cell phone users who are blurting out steady streams of shocking and confidential information. Indeed, more than ever, we’re forced to hear the intimate details of strangers’ lives.

Excessive and offensive cell phone use isn’t limited to social venues, either. It’s corrupting the most basic of business courtesies. You’ve most likely witnessed it yourself. Perhaps it was a coworker taking a phone call during a meeting, or maybe it was a staff member’s annoying cell phone jingle that went off while you were giving some clients a facility tour. Simply put, there are dozens of scenarios, but one thing is certain: employees need to get a grip on their cell phone use.
First Things First

If your healthcare organization doesn’t have a cell phone policy in place, it should seriously consider doing so. After all, some businesses have been held liable for cell phone-related accidents. For example, if an employee gets into an accident while making or taking a business call, the employer could be liable. A second ground for employer liability is negligence. Based on this theory, an employer could be liable for permitting employees to use cell phones without first providing proper training or adopting appropriate cell phone use policies.
Tips To Talk About

In addition to your organization’s written policy, you should share these tips and guidelines with all employees.

1. Never take a personal cell phone call during a meeting. This includes informal meetings with coworkers or subordinates. Taking personal calls during a meeting is not only rude, but it also shows your boss that your mind isn’t 100 percent on the job.

2. Never make or receive a call while you’re performing another task. No matter how well you multi-task, you are—without a doubt—more likely to make a mistake while you’re on your cell phone. Additionally, making or receiving a cell phone call at work could give your patients and customers the impression that they’re not your main priority; that you’re ready to “drop” them as soon as you receive a call.

3. Say “so long” to the songs. Ring tones—from the latest rap song to the theme from Star Wars— can be very annoying to coworkers, patients, and customers. If you don’t want to turn off your cell phone completely, at least set it to vibrate.

4. Define what constitutes an emergency. Cell phones are great in emergencies; loved ones can get in touch with you quickly and efficiently. But what exactly constitutes an emergency? Situations such as the school nurse calling to say your child is ill, your spouse calling to say his/her car has broken down on the highway, and any other family emergencies that you must deal with immediately should all be considered important calls. A friend calling to chat, or your child calling to say the TV isn’t working should not be considered emergencies. Let your family and friends know what you consider an emergency, and tell them that they should only interrupt your work day under those defined circumstances.

5. Use your voicemail. If you are in doubt about whether an incoming call is important, let voice mail pick it up. It will take much less time to check your messages than it will to answer the call and then tell the caller you can’t talk.

6. Mind your manners. While it’s okay to use your cell phone for calls during breaks, you shouldn’t make calls for everyone else to hear. Find a private place to talk, where your conversation can’t be overheard. You may be on a break, but your co-workers still have a job to do. More importantly, sick patients definitely don’t want to hear about your personal life, about your weekend plans, or about what you should make for dinner, etc. Be discreet and show some respect for those around you, as many are sick and suffering.

7. If you have an earpiece, don’t forget to take it off when you get to work. Earpieces can be very distracting, as people can’t tell if you’re on the phone or not.

Remember, cell phones aren’t really the problem. It’s peoples’ misuse and abuse of the technology that gives cell phones a bad name. If your healthcare organization wants to steer clear of mobile madness, it will need to draft a concise cell phone policy that, at a minimum, encompasses the guidelines above.