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Excessive Telephone Usage

Due to the popularity of cell phones, and if there's a telephone on or near your employee's desk or workstation, personal calls will be made and received, unless you expressly forbid it and you monitor the phones constantly. Most employers do not go to that extreme when setting up guidelines for personal calls and personal use of the telephone.

It's important to keep a handle on phone abuse because it results in lost productivity and the inability of customers to reach your business.

How do you control excessive phone usage? That's a tough one. You don't want to make it impossible for employees to use the phone if they must (as in the case of an emergency). Some telephone service providers can selectively block calls to certain area codes and exchanges. You can also place all phones in locations where you can see and hear the speaker, as a way of discouraging personal calls.

The best way to control personal long-distance phone calls is to track the bills and make sure that all the calls are to cities and companies related to business.

Business Tools

The Business Tools area contains a sample long distance call log that you can download and copy. If nonbusiness phone use appears to be an issue, you might want to give it to employees and ask them to turn one in each month. Verify it against the phone bill. This should serve as a deterrent to unauthorized calls and give you more information about phone calls for business reasons. Pay close attention to numbers that appear month after month. Make sure there's a business reason for calling these repeat numbers.

Another possible strategy would be to ask the phone company to itemize the phone bills by extension, if your phones are all under the same number.

It's even harder to control local calls or calls made on cell phones. The only way you're going to know if an employee is spending too much time on the phone is to witness it or to have other employees report it to you.

What to do if personal phone usage becomes an issue. If it comes to your attention that an employee is spending too much time on personal phone calls:

  • Take the employee aside to discuss the matter privately.
  • Explain what you've seen — don't accuse (20 minute conversation to employee's friend last Friday).
  • Explain why it concerns you (work is falling behind, customers can't get through, other employees can't concentrate).
  • Listen to any explanation that the employee might give (maybe the friend is suicidal — you never know) and allow for flexibility or a possible accommodation or solution.
  • Ask the employee to limit calls to break time or lunch time and to keep them to a maximum of 10 minutes (or whatever length you choose) unless it's an emergency.
  • Be sure that the employee understands that your discussion is not a personal attack.
  • Assure the employee that others will be held to the same standard of personal phone usage conduct.
  • Thank the employee for future cooperation
  • Be sure to hold other employees to the same standard.

Remember — consistently and fairly applied rules and policies are the most effective and will help keep your workplace running smoothly!