When you take a look around your business, does it seem that everyone is all thumbs? Are cell phones glued to your employees' hands as their fingers fly through text after text?
You may not have given the issue much thought, but as a small-business owner, it's up to you to decide whether it's OK for your employees to text on the job.
"Text messaging can lead to serious employment issues, including lost productivity, discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims," says lawyer David Reischer, COO and founder of LegalAdvice.com. "A small business should have an employee-texting policy and make efforts to enforce such a policy."
Reischer says such a policy is especially crucial if employees are involved in driving company vehicles or operating heavy machinery. "It's important for the company to have a policy that spells out the zero tolerance policy of the organization since an employee who texts at work may create a legal liability," Reischer says. "A text message policy must be specific to the needs of the organization."
Daniel Rothner, founder and director of Areyvut, a nonprofit organization that encourages children to embrace core Jewish values, believes that using work time for texting should be off limits. As Rothner explains, "Texting is really an extension of personal phone calls and having employees check their emails or Facebook at work."
For some businesses, a "no texting" policy could cut off customer relations. "We've noticed that our clients, especially the younger ones, do all their communications via text," says Cindy Kurman, president of Kurman Communications Inc. "If we prevented texting all together, we'd be cutting our throats. We do have a policy that states that personal use of social media and mobile phones during work is prohibited. But we do permit it for business use, and it's impossible to monitor if someone is abusing the policy."
When it comes down to it, Kurman adds, you have to trust your workforce. "Our hope is that we hire professional and honest people," she says, "and that they honor the policy 99 percent of the time. The 1 percent that they don't would be in case of emergency."
Jesse Gaddis, CEO and founder of Bedford Slims, a manufacturer of electronic cigarettes, says the "texting on the job" issue is something every business owner faces, and he, for one, has decided to embrace the nature of this type of communication.
"We are now a generation that needs to stay in constant communication with the outside world," Gaddis says. "I've actually seen my interns' eyes roll into the back of their heads at the prospect of no social media or texting on the job. My philosophy is simple: Scratch the itch, and get back to work. A mind at peace keeps moving much faster than someone thinking about whether or not their boyfriend liked their last Instagram post."
Jay Lipsey, CEO of management consulting firm Accel Associates LLC, agrees with Reischer that a small business involved in any kind of driving needs a no-texting policy. But other than that, he says, busy small-business owners just don't have the resources to focus on enforcement.
"The bottom line is, while it would potentially help with productivity, it wouldn't be worth the time and energy needed to monitor and enforce compliance with this policy," Lipsey says. "Small businesses don't want their culture associated with designating a hall monitor who's checking up on peers. And the worst thing a business can do, especially a small business, is have a set of rules that aren't enforced or consequences that aren't implemented."
When it comes to employee texting, each business owner has to decide what's right for their own company. Consider the impact on your company culture and the perception of your company when making your decision. Then put your policy in place and enforce it.
Read more articles on company culture.
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