Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Texting at Work: Is it a Problem?

As an employer, what should you do with employees who struggle to see their shortcomings? Of course, it's not your job to belittle and demean, but it's certainly your job to make sure you have employees who are efficient and work well. It's not just a matter of who's the boss, but the success of your business and livelihood may depend on it.
We can take all the precautions before hiring, such as background checks, employment screening and behavioral assessment tests. With the behavioral assessments, we should have a good idea of how our candidates will behave in a certain situation -- what their strengths and weaknesses are -- but still we can't predict all behaviors between coworkers due to interpersonal dynamics or work stress. But the behavioral assessments -- psychological and integrity testing -- can help us to know what to observe and what we're looking for from particular employees.

So let's talk about current trends that may pose problems at work if not monitored. We're all familiar with social websites and texting. These are fabulous tools that enable you to locate old friends, keep in touch with current friends, and even keep in touch with your teenagers who prefer texting over phone calls. They can be addictive because communicating to friends is made so easy now. Not so bad, you say. It's a good addiction to fill your life with good friends. But what if it hinders employees from focusing on work? Should you ban texting and social websites from your workplace all together?

Maybe the solution need not be so extreme unless it puts those around you in danger. I read recently a good example of this in the Chicago Tribune. Just this month, the Chicago Transit Authority initiated a zero-tolerance policy which bans employees from having personal electronic devices while working. We've seen what happens to distracted drivers so this was a smart move. Read the full story here: No texting, no phones for CTA rail workers

So if we're not in the trucking, taxi or transit business, we -- as employers -- don't need to be quite that strict perhaps. What are some laws we can lay down that are reasonable?

  1. Save your social time for lunch breaks and after work. Of course personal phone calls/emergencies do happen during work hours, so make them brief if they're necessary -- depending on the emergency -- and then refocus on work.
  2. Set up an internet policy with your employees that is clear and concise, depending on the nature of your business.
  3. Contract versus salaried workers may be treated differently. After all with contract workers, we are paying them by the hour, not by the number of friends they've contacted during the completion of a project. If they're salaried, when work is done, is it considered free time?

Even if we've made some clear rules around the office and we've set up an internet policy, it's still important that we observe all ages of employees; it's not just the younger generation. Older people may be on the phone all day or answering personal emails. And actually the main problem here may not be texting or social networking at all, but rather that the work is not getting done. You decide if you want to be a boss who wants to know what your employees are doing every minute of the day -- sounds kind of stressful -- or the kind of boss who sets up some guidelines and then puts their trust in their employees. Sounds a bit like parenting to me -- good parenting that is.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think for some places banning texting or certain social networking sites is not a bad idea. I had one job that has changed the rules so many times, to be honest, no one cares anymore. When I had first started working there, cell phones were not allowed past security check in. If you brought it with, security had to hold it for you until you got off work. The next year, they allowed cell phones past security but you couldn't use it until you were off work. The year after that they allowed you to use your cell phone at any point of the day as long as you were out of guest view. The year after that, you were only allowed to use your phone in a designated break area. And finally, this year if you took your cell phone out of your pocket in front of a guest to check the time, or even outside of a designated break area it called for immediate termination. Is that not ridiculous? No wonder it seems like everyone breaks the rules when they have changed so much that no one knows what is really going on. I think at the beginning of employment having a Professional Employer Organization administer a behavioral assessment and integrity test will work to determine how someone will abuse the texting, socializing, etc. But it will not do any good if the rules aren't clear and if they constantly change.