By Khris Berry
Cell phones are a way of life in our culture today. In a few short decades, the cellular phone device has become a necessary personal mobile data center for most hard–working adults…as well as students of all ages, cranky toddlers and everyone in between.
Our society has moved into a plugged–in, turned–on, constant stream of communication overload.
Who among us hasn’t had the pleasure of standing in the grocery check–out line trying not to listen to an overly loud conversation complete with personal details? Who hasn’t tried to have a conversation with another person while they stared blankly at a phone screen? Who among us hasn’t been casually disregarded by a client as we tried to offer our best customer service and discuss their pet’s needs upon check out, only to be glared at for interrupting their very important phone call?
Cell phones in the workplace are a source of constant concern for employers, but this issue takes on new meaning when dealing with pet service employees. There are many reasons why you should consider implementing a cell phone policy in your business, but here are the top ones:
- Distractions which increase risk to pets’ safety
- Loss of time/wages/productivity for employers
- Lack of focus and attention to pets, co–workers and clients
- Lack of professionalism: What message are you sending to your clients?
When deciding to implement a cell phone policy in your pet business, you should take several factors into consideration. How much restriction or freedom you allow with personal devices can be determined by the needs of your business. For example, a busy dog daycare attendant would likely need to be extra vigilant to the needs of the pets in their care, therefore a business owner may determine that dog daycare attendants would have a restrictive cell phone policy. Likewise, a receptionist who is on public display and is responsible for interacting with clients, phones and co–workers may also perform their job duties better with a restrictive cell phone policy.
Cell Phone Solutions
Create a cell phone policy in writing and distribute it to every employee. Your policy can offer levels of mobile device access, depending on job duties and descriptions; you choose which level of access provides the best care and attention to every aspect of your business.
Cell phone policies do not have to be one–size–fits–all. You can craft one that suits you and your employees needs equally. An employee handbook is a great place to explain your cell phone policy. Below, you will find the three basic styles of cell phone policies that you may choose to create.
• All Access (All employees may have their personal phone at work): This type of cell phone policy is self–policed, meaning that employees must have a maturity level to know when they should and should not use their cell phone in the workplace. It is the most lenient form of cell phone policy and requires self–discipline on the part of employees and trust on the part of the employer that it will be followed. If you choose to utilize an All–Access cell phone policy, you can still define the types of calls which are acceptable to take in a public workplace, the duration of time spent on the device and expectations for professional conduct when dealing with clients, pets and co–workers. Many business owners mistake this form of policy with having no policy whatsoever. Even if you allow All Access to personal devices in the workplace, you can direct how, where and when your employees use their phones.
• Limited Access (Some employees may have access to their personal phones while others may not dependent upon job description/department/responsibilities): A Limited Access policy requires some effort on the part of management to explain the policy; some staff may use cell phones while others may not. A clear policy which designates which employees have access and which do not in your pet business will eliminate discussions about fairness in the work place. Remember our daycare attendant who needed complete vigilance to the dogs in her care? A groomer may need a personal device to look up specialty breed patterns, view photos or view instructions on a pet’s preferred groom. By defining your employees’ parameters, you can be assured that cell phone usage will be in the best interest of your business.
• No Access (No employees may have access to their personal devices during their work shifts): If you decide that a No Access cell phone policy would work best in your place of business, a cell phone basket is one way to implement the policy. A cell phone basket is a community basket or bin left in a common area, but under supervision. Each employee (or designated employee) must place their mobile device into the basket while working, but can access it during breaks, lunches or for brief communications. This works well, particularly when orienting new employees to an atmosphere where lost time or lack of focus on pets will not be tolerated. It removes the temptation to glance at their device, keep it in their pocket or become distracted by outside issues.
When creating your cell phone policy, you should leave some leniency for times when an employee may need to have access to their cell phone during the work day. My business cell phone policy allows an employee to speak with a manager and keep their phone with them in the case of a personal emergency, an ill family member or when they are expecting an important call. We find that offering special accommodations when asked, our employees are respectful and able to manage personal stress while executing their jobs. And they are comfortable and willing to “unplug” from the outside world and focus on their clients, pets and co–workers.
Here are some of the pros and cons you may realize after you have implemented a cell phone policy in your pet business:
- Entitled employees who are not willing to comply with common social rules will be brought to the surface.
- Customers, clients and co–workers will enjoy richer personal interactions and their focus will remain on the pets in your care.
- Time lost on the black hole of the internet may now be used to operate brooms, vacuums, window cleaning tools and other various cleaning implements.
- Personal conversations will be held to a minimum, outside personal drama is more likely to remain outside your business.
- Morale may take a brief dip while employees adjust to life without their personal devices.
- Employees who are responsible may feel as though they are being punished.
- Employees occasionally have real–life situations which may require their time and attention during the workday. Does your policy offer this option for special occasions? i.e., a bad breakup, a vet appointment for their cat, a physical therapist calling for Aunt Betsy. Be prepared to determine what should be considered a special situation.
Who falls under the cell phone policy umbrella? Do you police yourself? More and more, employees want a culture of mutual respect and admiration—nothing achieves this faster than following your own rules. Customers? Do you require their attention as well? Again, mutual respect.
Whichever option is right for you, employers should be asking for the undivided attention of their employees during business hours. Your clients, their pets and your business deserve complete focus while taking care of pets.