A Corporate Policy For Personal Electronic Devices
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A couple of years ago I created somewhat of a ruckus when I wrote an article
"Music in the Workplace." In it, I suggested there should be restrictions on
using personal audio devices in the workplace. This created a bit of a stir
particularly with I.T. personnel who staunchly defended the use of their iPods
and MP3 players while programming. In the course of the ensuing dialog, I asked
what companies, if any, had developed a formal corporate policy regarding the
use of such devices. Remarkably, nobody seemed to have one, or if they did, they
didn't want to come forward with it. However, recently I received one from an HR
Administrator, perhaps the first of its kind. As this is considered somewhat of
a trailblazing effort, the company asked to remain anonymous. All I can tell you
is that they represent the North American unit of a global manufacturing
company. Nonetheless, here is what they came up with:
"It is critical that employees working in the manufacturing areas remain
focused on the tasks at hand and do not have any unnecessary distractions. It is
for this reason that our policy on portable personal electronic devices such as
cell phones, blackberries, computers, I-pods, CD players, MP3 players, radios,
video games and pagers are prohibited in the manufacturing areas.
Company issued cell phones, computers, blackberries and pagers are
acceptable as long as they do not create a hazard for the environment.
In non-production areas such as an office, the use of personal portable
electronic devices are at the discretion of the manager.
Disciplinary action may be taken against any employee who does not adhere
to this policy."
Frankly, I thought this was well written and quite practical; on the one
hand, the company highlights the safety issues involved, and on the other they
recognize it might be acceptable in other areas of the business where safety is
not an issue. As for me, I might have taken it a step further and added some
verbiage whereby such devices should be prohibited from customer service
situations where it is necessary to pay attention to the customer. It might also
make sense to ban such devices from meeting and training situations. Come to
think of it, situations where these devices can be used in the workplace without
having an adverse effect on business is becoming rare.
A recent BusinessWeek article (6/23/2008) reported that the amount of time
the average U.S. worker loses to interruptions is 28%. This figure pretty much
jives with the 70% effectiveness rate figure we have reported over the years
(whereby in the average eight hour work day in an office setting, 5.6 hours are
spent on direct work, and 2.4 hours are spent on interferences). Frankly,
interferences are a natural part of office life (nobody can be 100% effective).
But now with these personal electronic devices in play while employees are
working, one has to wonder what effect it is having on worker concentration.
Some people, particularly programmers (who tend to be somewhat introverted),
thrive on such devices. However, these devices can be very distracting to other
job functions requiring more extroverted personalities, such as Sales and
So, is a corporate policy on personal electronic devices really necessary?
Frankly, I think it would be very irresponsible on management's part not to have
such a policy. It must be remembered that the distraction resulting from these
devices can impact three areas:
- Worker safety.
- Product/service defects and errors (workmanship).
- Worker productivity.
If it's between entertaining the workers and putting the company at risk, I
think it's a no-brainer; the employees can wait until break time to enjoy such
I would like to thank the individual for sharing the above policy with us. It
may not be perfect but it's a good first start.
If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not
hesitate to send me an e-mail.
Keep the faith.
About the Author
Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant with
M. Bryce & Associates
of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the field. He is
available for lecturing, training and consulting on an international basis. He
can be reached at
Comments and questions are welcome.
Copyright © 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-07-11 14:02:17 in Computer Articles