Smartphones becoming distractions at work

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BlackBerrys and iPhones have become the latest bane for employers concerned about lost productivity, according to Employment Law Advisory Services.

The company reported that its help lines are taking more and more calls from employers worried about the amount of time staff waste playing with their smartphones when they should be working.

Over the past couple of years, employers have equipped their people with phones that let them send and receive emails. Now that worries about productivity are taking hold, one of the common questions is whether taking smartphones away from employees might constitute a change in their remuneration package.

"What started as a trickle is certainly building up to a stream as more and more employers start looking at what they really need from their employers," said Peter Mooney of ELAS.

"Being able to email staff at seven or eight o'clock was certainly seen as a benefit, but now the phones can do more and more, they are realising that giving staff such powerful technology has its drawbacks too."

ELAS estimated that accessing emails on a smartphone typically saves the employer between five and 20 minutes a day, depending on how much time the employee spends out of the office. Time lost to Facebook, Twitter, checking football scores, and so on can amount to 30 to 90 minutes a day.

As well as being a potential distraction for them, staff with expensive phones are also more likely to have their phones stolen, the firm advised.

In the past year or so, social networking sites were employers' biggest online bugbear and this concern was addressed by a range of web monitoring and blocking programs. But companies that restrict staff internet access through computers are finding it harder to control staff surfing habits on their mobile phones.

According to Mooney, downgrading an employee's phone from a smartphone to a standard handset does not constitute a reduction in their overall package.

"Because most companies' IT policies state that any technology staff have is for business not personal use, then it is no loss of benefit to take that away," he advised.

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This article originally appeared on our sister Web site, AccountingWEB.co.uk.

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