Posted by Kindra K.
September 6, 2019
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.
As you read, you’ll learn why it’s important to have a cell phone policy for your business, regardless of whether you provide your employees with phones or not.
Here’s a sampling of the feedback she received.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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 you’ve decided to provide company phones during work hours, which plan, provider or phone should you go with? It’s hard to answer that question without knowing the number of phones you’ll need and which provider has the best service in your area. Use those two factors to find the best-priced small business plans in your area.
A lot of pros make it simple and go with unlimited data plans so they never have to worry about additional charges.
As for phones, the cheapest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models available at the store will be plenty capable and can cost at little as $300 per phone (⅓ the price of the latest model). Go with a smartphone so you can install employee tracking and download Housecall Pro on your tech’s phones to schedule, communicate, and invoice your customers while in the field.
Also, consider using a virtual phone answering service like Jill's Office, if you don’t have dedicated office staff. That way, you don’t need to always answer calls while on the job or worry about calls going unanswered.
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 tips you should consider when creating a policy:
Include the cell phone policy as part of a larger employee handbook. Don’t have an employee handbook? Read how an electrician learned the importance of having an employee handbook.
Set an annual calendar reminder to revisit your cell phone policy to ensure it’s up to date and still serves your company's needs.
Ask yourself and answer these questions to form the core of your cell phone policy:
When and where is smartphone use permitted? When is it strictly prohibited? For instance, will you allow coworkers to call one another just to chat while driving job to job?
Which activities are legitimate for business use, and which ones should be avoided?
How do you handle employees storing confidential information on these devices?
Are there any instances when personal calls are allowed? When?
Who specifically does the policy apply to? All employees or only workers in the field?
Do you prefer employees to keep their phones on vibrate while in a customer’s home?
What about listening to voicemail when on the job?
What about personal phone calls during business hours? It might also be important to think about lunchtimes and how that applies.
While driving, are employees required to have their phone connected to a hands-free device?
Can employees use of text messaging or social media while working?
How will the company enforce the policy, and what will happen to those who violate it?
Use the below example as a template to get started with your own employee cell phone policy.
Handheld Electronics (all mobile devices): The use of personal cell phones during work time is not permitted, however, it can be used during designated breaks and meal times. Mobile phones brought to work must be kept on silent or vibrate mode in the office or while in customers' home. Employees are permitted to call coworkers when appropriate (while driving between job sites). Texting while driving, playing games, or using the phone for social media is never permitted while working. Personal cell phone privileges at work may be taken away if device use is found to be disruptive or productivity decreases below a satisfactory level. If [company name] deems it appropriate, the employee may be subject to further disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
Employees in certain positions may be provided with a cell phone allowance to improve productivity and efficiency. Full compliance with all Company policies (including workplace conduct, discrimination, and harassment policies as previously mentioned) is required when conducting Company business via any mobile device or may result in termination of employment. Cell phone use while driving a company vehicle must be done using a hands-free device (provided by [company name]).
A workplace policy for 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.