Telephone usage has become a contentious HR issue in more than a few workplaces.
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On the one hand, your employees want and sometimes need the ability to make personal calls from the workplace. At the same time, employers want to make sure their workers are focused on the task at hand rather than chatting with their friends about the latest episode of their favorite TV show.
As an employer, it's within your rights to restrict your employees from making personal calls. But short of locking down the phones or restricting outgoing calls altogether, it can be difficult to curtail your employees personal phone usage. Most employers don't have a problem with a personal call here or there, but a high volume of calls and long distance charges add up.
The employee handbook presents a perfect opportunity to address the issue of phone usage. It doesn't take much effort to create a sensible policy that can serve as a baseline for conversations and disciplinary actions. Here's how to create an employee handbook telephone usage policy in your company.
- Describe excessive use. Your handbook should accurately identify what you consider to be excessive telephone use. Long-distance calls are almost always prohibited without prior permission from a supervisor. You can also limit local calls to emergencies and urgent family matters.
- Usage monitoring. By describing the manner in which you will monitor phone usage in the handbook you can create an effective deterrent for abuse. Long-distance calls are relatively easy to monitor through monthly phone bill reviews. Local calls are more difficult to monitor apart from actually observing employees spending excessive amounts of time on the phone.
- Discipline policy. The handbook should describe the discipline policy for excessive usage. Employers commonly have a process in place that begins with a heart to heart discussion and escalates to more severe consequences if the behavior does not change. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to terminate the employee.
- Cell phones. A more likely scenario is that employees will circumvent traditional telephone usage policies by making and receiving calls (or text messages) on a personal cell phone. The problem is that even personal cell phones can present a major disruption in the workplace. Make sure your employee handbook addresses personal cell phone usage and limits it to regularly scheduled breaks.