Choosing the Right Employee Cell Phone Policy
According to PEW Resource, 95% of Americans now own a cellphone of some kind. That means retailers today face a hard choice...
Do they prohibit cell phone use on the retail floor, and risk being seen as draconian or old-fashioned by their employees?
Or do they allow it, and risk having employees who don’t bother to look up when there’s a customer in the store?
Different retailers take different approaches. A few of the most common are:
POLICY #1: NO CELL PHONES ON THE FLOOR. EVER.
These stores make it a policy that employees are to leave their phones in the back of the store. They can use them on breaks and on lunch, but are not to carry them while working.
They say that they are paying the employee for his or her time; there is always something to be done around the store, even if there aren’t any customers that need help right that minute.
POLICY #2: EMPLOYEES CAN CARRY A PHONE—BUT IT MUST BE ON VIBRATE IN A POCKET.
Some retailers allow employees to carry their phone and use it for work-related purposes; to check prices (at those locations that do price matching, for example), for the calculator, or maybe even to post pictures of pets that come in on the store’s Facebook page.
These retailers know employees are going to bring their phones to work with them, no matter what, so they opt to allow them and try to turn their presence into an advantage.
POLICY #3: EMPLOYEES ARE TO USE THEIR DISCRETION.
Finally, some retailers actually leave it up to their employees—they explain that they are trusting them to make smart choices and not ignore customers in favor of Facebook.
These retailers are counting on the idea that they’ll get (and retain) better employees with a more lenient policy. They may set some general guidelines—like phones belong in your pocket while there is a customer in the store—but in general, they’re more lax about the situation.
WHICH POLICY IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Ultimately, which approach is right will vary from store to store, based on management, the employees themselves and how much foot traffic a store sees. That said, most stores are likely to wind up somewhere between the extremes of “no phones” and “no rules.”
Employees today are used to keeping their personal phones with them at all times. So banning them completely seems likely to cause resentment and hard feelings. But a total lack of rules is likely to lead to bad choices.
Setting expectations and some guidelines—things like no phones out while customers are in the store and that they should limit phone use to what’s really necessary— is almost definitely a good idea. But, so long as you’ve made good choices with who you’ve hired, ensured your staff understands the importance of their role in the store’s success and trained them well, overuse of phones on the floor (hopefully) won’t be an issue.
And if it is? Well, then maybe it’s time for a different conversation entirely.