May 16, 2019
Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator
There’s no doubt about it — today’s technology has transformed the way home-service businesses work. From dispatch software that can be accessed from any internet-connected device to GPS tracking tools that can instantly identify an employee’s location, the home-service industry now operates far differently than it did even a mere decade ago. And at the center of this fundamental change is the modern smartphone, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse for some home-service companies.
Today’s smartphones — in conjunction with the app ecosystems that have emerged alongside them — make it possible for home-service companies to operate more efficiently than ever before. But these same tools, however, can also be used for innumerable other applications that have absolutely nothing to do with work. And for home-service companies that provide their workers with smartphones, many of these activities may be considered unacceptable — especially when employees engage in them when they’re supposed to be working.
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Entrusting employees with company-provided cell phones can be a challenge, as evidenced by a recent discussion in our Housecall Pros Group. In a post, one of our Superpros stated that she had stumbled upon a couple of concerning issues while installing new software on her employees’ work phones. Specifically, she discovered that one worker’s daughter was using his smartphone throughout the workday, while a couple of other employees were using their phones to chat about how to beat the business’s impending drug test.
Understandably, these issues alarmed the employer who initiated the conversation, leading her to consider going so far as to install spyware on her workers’ phones. But prior to doing so, she reached out to our far-reaching community of Superpros to find out how they approach smartphone usage in their businesses and how they handle employees’ expectations of privacy in general.
The recommendations posted in response ranged from extremely rigid to completely carefree, with some business owners arguing in favor of a strict smartphone policy, while other employers suggested doing away with company phones altogether. Here’s a sampling of the feedback she received.
Home service business owners that do not believe in providing company cell phones:
“We stopped providing work phones. A condition of employment is not only that a worker provides their own tools but their own phone, as well. We used to provide phones until we realized that workers weren’t taking care of them because they don't own them. They lose them, break them, misuse them, don't charge them, etc. Now we’re done with that. They use their own phones, and no one ever loses them, breaks them, or lets their battery die!”
“We don't provide phones anymore. They must have their own smartphone as a term of employment. It was obvious to us when one of our workers used their phone as a number for side jobs. So we did away with company phones.”
Home service business owners that provide company cell phones:
“We provide phones and mandate what apps are on them. I request that they send photos of the projects they're working on, and we use those photos on Instagram and for our website. I make them sign a photography agreement that states any photos taken by employees using company phones are our property.”
“The only policy you need is no cell phone use while driving — except the GPS/navigation feature. Other than that, let it be.”
“Our company phones are for work and personal use and are considered part of our employees’ overall compensation package. The employee signs an agreement stating the phone will not be used for illegal activity in addition to other stipulations regarding company property and data.”
Home service business owners who took an alternative approach on company cell phone policy issue:
“We give a phone allowance. So instead of providing a phone for them, we give them $50 per month toward their bill. That can definitely pay for a phone plan in most areas.”
“We give them an iPad to use in the field and a flip-phone for work. Flip phones are cheap to replace if broken. They only need their phones to make calls, and they can use their iPads to do everything else in the field. (Thanks to Housecall Pro.) If they misuse the iPad, they are required to turn it in every day and come into the office to pick it up. That solves problems pretty quickly. We've never had any issues.”
“We use an unlimited family plan, which allows us to track the location of phones, perform updates, and wipe or lock the phone as necessary. We can also set off an alarm sound, which has proven very useful when an employee is late or has missed their own alarm. In addition, we use modules from our cell phone provider in each vehicle, which adds another tracking option that makes it possible to constantly monitor vehicles, including travel times between locations, fuel usage, braking/idling, speeding warnings, and even recalls on the vehicle.”
Some business owners advise against monitoring employee cell phones:
“Monitoring employees’ phones sounds like a reason to be upset at my guys all the time, which could lead to a horrible relationship and possibly losing valued employees.”
“If you decide to look into your employees’ phones, you will end up wanting to fire everyone.”
Although our Superpros have vastly different attitudes toward monitoring employees’ smartphones, this conversation does make two things abundantly clear:
1) There is no one-size-fits-all smartphone solution that can apply every to home-service business alike
2) Company-provided devices might no longer be necessary in today’s tech-centric society.
It wasn’t all that long ago when most home-service companies were expected to provide their employees with cell phones specifically for business use. Yet, given the relatively recent rise of smartphone ownership — combined with the increased availability of internet access — that practice is rapidly fading away as more and more employers expect their workers to own mobile devices that are compatible with whatever apps the company chooses to use.
If your company is at a crossroads regarding whether or not to provide smartphones to your employees, here’s a quick look at the advantages and drawbacks of each approach.
There are several reasons why it could make excellent sense for your company to equip workers with dedicated smartphones to be used exclusively for business purposes. Here are three of the most popular reasons.
Around-the-Clock Access — When your employees carry their work phone wherever they go, managers can reach them 24/7.
Potential Cost Savings — If your business currently reimburses workers for their cell phone usage, a unified plan with multiple lines could add up to substantial savings.
Compatibility — By providing workers with smartphones, you can ensure that everyone is running the appropriate apps on up-to-date devices.
On the other hand, providing your workers with smartphones could negatively impact your business in several ways. Here are three common drawbacks to consider.
Upgrades are Expensive — The average lifespan of a smartphone is around 2 years, and depending on the number of employees you have, upgrades could be quite costly.
Inconvenience for Employees — Smartphones seem to be getting larger each year, and no one wants to carry around two of them at all times.
It Can Be a Lot of Work — Equipping your team with smartphones and ensuring the devices stay secure and up-to-date can consume a considerable amount of time.
If, after weighing the pros and cons of providing your employees with smartphones, you decide it’s in your business’s best interest to equip your workers with up-to-date devices, it’s recommended that you first establish a few ground rules regarding when and how these phones can be used. This is where a smartphone policy can come in handy.
Smartphone policies specifically outline which activities constitute acceptable uses for such devices — and which activities workers should avoid. Yet if you’ve never created such a policy before, you might not be sure where to begin. Here are some common features you should consider including:
When and where is smartphone use permitted? When is it strictly prohibited?
Which activities are legitimate for business use, and which ones should be avoided?
Are there any instances when personal use of a company phone is allowed? When?
Who specifically does the policy apply to? All employees or only workers in the field?
How will the company enforce the policy, and what will happen to those who violate it?
Today’s employers have the ability to monitor their workers to a far greater extent than businesses have ever had before. But this newfound power doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s acceptable for a business to secretly keep tabs on its employees. Rather, a smartphone policy can go a long way toward protecting workers while also increasing a company’s efficiency.
An approach to device management that works well for one company, might not work at all for another, But regardless of whether or not you choose to institute a smartphone policy in your business, you can always count on Housecall Pro to help you and your team make the most of your technology. Our all-in-one platform includes an array of tools you can use to streamline operations and keep customers happy. Our solution even features an in-app chat that empowers employees to communicate with customers before, during, and after completion of a project.
If you’d like to learn more about the difference Housecall Pro can make in your business, schedule a free demo today!
Housecall Pro is rated the #1 software to run your HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Carpet Cleaning and other home service businesses. Our features allow you to schedule and dispatch jobs, get booked online, send invoice and receive payment within minutes whether if you are in the office or out in the field. This comprehensive software can help you grow revenue by 30% in one year and save up to 500 hours a year. Join all the other successful home service businesses who have already started and try Housecall Pro for 14 days free today.
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