Should staff be able to use personal cell phones while at work?

In our last article, we discussed the importance of having an Employee Handbook. This time, we wanted to specifically address an issue we often get asked about: what the rules around cell phone, office computer for personal things, and accessing personal email should be.

Technology has introduced an interesting quandary: while technology can improve office efficiency and productivity, there is also a concern that personal use of technology can decrease an employee’s efficiency and productivity. Let’s begin by addressing cell phone use. There are some programs now that require an employee to sign into their EMR account with a two-step process that includes receiving a code on their phone to gain access. In these cases, the employees must have access to their cell phones at all times. And access will inevitably mean use.

Many owners worry, rightly so, about the loss of productivity in these cases. However, there is another school of thought. What if having access to their phone increases their workplace satisfaction and that happiness translates into more productive employees?

According to Forbes magazine in an article entitled “Promoting Employee Happiness Benefits Everyone” dated December 13, 2017, Happy employees are also good new for organizations: The stock prices of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for rose 14% per year from 1998 to 2005, while companies not on the list only reported a 6% increase. Perhaps the best course of action is to set some clear expectations around discrete cell phone use. Many offices find it helps to implement a policy of keeping cell phones in drawers – out of sight out of mind – when not needed.

It is imperative that employees are discouraged from using practice computers or email for personal use. This restriction has less to do with decreased productivity and more to do with the risks associated with viruses and breaches in security. Setting up a practice email is fairly easy through email. This way the owner or office manager can also keep an eye on email transactions to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Almost everyone uses Google, both for business and personal use. In order to create clear line between the two, consider setting up a laptop in the “staff area/lunch room” that can be used for personal searches. This type of set up will set up the right expectations and make it easy to do so.

Whatever your policy is, make sure you outline every detail of it in your employee manual so that your expectations around this is very clear. Technology is changing the face of how we do business and how we organize our personal lives. We need to embrace technology in our practices to stay relevant in today’s marketplace. Setting clear expectations for personal use of technology will make it easier for all involved.



is the co-founder and managing partner of Simple Innovative Management Ideas (SIMI) Inc. and expert Practice Management contributor for Optik magazine. She can be reached at


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