Everyone believes that technology is this great productivity enhancer, and there is no doubt that we possess more information at our fingertips than ever before. But experts have talked about a “productivity paradox” for years as they note that the rise of new technologies has not enhanced worker productivity by much.
There are many possible reasons for why this paradox exists, but there is no doubt that part of it can be attributed to how workers can waste so much time on their computers and phones. This is not just goofing around on Facebook or playing games. Answering emails or texting can also distract workers from what they need to do.
An employer must ensure that his workers are productive and not wasting time on their phones all day, but that cannot be done by constantly watching over their shoulders. Here are a few tips to help your workers get enhanced by technology and not distracted.
Handling “Project Fear”
One of the biggest challenges with phones is that they enable employees to feel productive even if they are not. Workers do want to feel that they accomplished something at the end of the day, but also dread the work they have to do when they stare at some big project you have assigned them. It is much easier to spend all day reading and responding to emails and texts to get that feeling of accomplishment.
While you may want to just hand your workers a project and let them work on it as they see fit, a more hands-on approach will help ensure that they do not get paralyzed and turn to their phones for help. There are numerous guides for how workers can take a big project and split it into smaller portions, and it may be best for you to take a proactive approach and split it yourself. Then you can hand your workers a smaller, more manageable portion which they can take care of in a reasonable timeframe before handing them the next portion.
Set and enforce a phone policy
Demanding that employees entirely refrain from using their phones while in the office is absurd and will lower morale. But if you set up a phone policy in advance and communicate it to your employees, it will show what is and is not acceptable.
Sit down with management, human resources, and your IT department (nothing shows management to be out of touch faster than a phone policy which makes no technological sense). Determine what you are trying to do with your cell phone plan and what sorts of behaviors you are trying to stop. Entrepreneur has a good example of what a sample cell phone policy should look like.
Once a policy is in place, make sure that everyone knows about it. For example, have workers sign a form acknowledging that they received and have read the new policy. Do not be afraid to discipline employees who refuse to follow it, up to demanding that they relinquish cell phones if they continue to use it for personal reasons.
Allow for exceptions and breaks
If you set a cell phone policy, you have to do your best to ensure that the policy is enforced fairly. This includes management and you should make it clear that they are expected to follow the policies which they drafted.
This is becoming easier with phone companies coming up with new technology that allows you to limit phone usage via software. But you should also understand that sometimes exceptions will need to be made. For example, employees with serious health issues should be permitted to use their phones to regularly speak with their doctor. You may also wish to grant privileges to employees with children so they can stay in regular contact.
In addition to these exceptions, make it clear when employees are allowed to use phones. If you give your employees regular, assigned break periods where they are allowed to use their phones, that will help them stop from taking an impromptu “five-minute break” to check Facebook on their phones that lasts 50 minutes.
Use your own cell phone less
As the one running a company, your own personal cell phone use can set an example of how others should treat their cell phones. If you are spending all of your time texting and on your phone, then your subordinates will conclude that such behavior is acceptable for themselves as well.
Most people spend too much time fiddling with their cell phones anyways, and this sort of behavior is a serious distraction to your work regardless of how you are using it. Try to use your own phone as little as possible, and you will be stunned to realize just how much time you waste on it. And while you may not be able to convince all your workers that texting 24/7 is unnecessary, you will be able to set a positive example and encourage others to depend on superior face to face communication.