Connections - 05.01.23

It’s Time to Reconsider Your Cell Phone Policy

Share this page
In Partnership with

What if we told you there’s a way to make your entire staff smarter, safer, and more productive…and it’s already in their pockets?

From streamlining data collection to modernizing the way services are delivered, cell phones can play an incredibly beneficial role in service delivery. Yet many organizations are still on the fence about whether or not to allow DSPs to use their cell phones at work.

Before you say that cell phones are disruptive and distracting, hear us out: We’re not suggesting that you throw out your cell phone policy entirely and let staff scroll through TikTok during work hours. What we are recommending, however, is that it might be time to reevaluate your current cell phone policy. Here are five reasons it’s worth a second look:

1. Safety

Many DSPs meet with clients alone in their homes or out in the community. In the event of an emergency, a cell phone can be a vital lifeline. Without a phone, it’s impossible for your staff to call for help.

Cell phones also have the added benefit of providing important information like severe weather alerts to notify staff when a tornado, flood or fire evacuation order, or other emergency is happening in their area so they can get themselves and their clients to safety.

2. Productivity

While we all know cell phones can be a time-suck, the productivity benefits of these devices often outweigh any downsides. Smartphones can help staff get more done, from quickly looking up and verifying client information, to taking notes, scheduling appointments, and clocking in/out for EVV — all without needing to be in front of a laptop.

But don’t just take our word for it: three out of four workers say their smartphones make them more productive, according to Google research.

3. Assistive technology

Aside from becoming more productive, cell phones can help DSPs support those they serve more effectively by providing access to a wealth of assistive technology tools. For example, if staff need to translate something to sign language in order to communicate with their client, there’s an app for that.

Banning cell phones altogether might eliminate the potential for distractions, but it also prevents DSPs from using them as another helpful tool in their toolbox.

4. Learning opportunities

Smartphones have become such a major part of our lives that even teachers are using them in the classroom to boost student learning. What if disability service agencies did the same and treated cell phones as a teaching tool?

DSPs can show the people they support how to use their cell phone to find the bus schedule or look up directions if they get turned around. They can also practice device etiquette, like what to say when answering a call and when it is (and isn’t) okay to use your phone. Given that more people own a cell phone than a toothbrush, these are crucial skills for independent living and employment.

5. Employee engagement

To Gen Z and Millennials, a “no cell phone” policy can feel like punishment. Employers who stubbornly stick to their zero tolerance policies for cell phones run the risk of alienating an entire generation of workers. On the flip side, organizations that embrace technology like cell phones have an advantage when it comes to attracting new employees.

If that’s not reason enough, consider this: The University of Kansas found that workers who take short breaks throughout the day to check Facebook or play Candy Crush are happier and have a more positive attitude. (We can all relate to that!)

What to do instead

Letting go of your current cell phone policy requires moving out of your comfort zone and trying something new, but the payoff is well worth the effort. However, you don’t have to scrap your cell phone policy entirely to reap the benefits we’ve outlined above.

A more thoughtful approach is to lay out an “acceptable use” policy that outlines how you expect phones to be used at work. Then, teach employees the skills they need in order to use technology in a way that adds to services rather than taking away from them.

As with any new policy, expect to have some hiccups along the way and spend some time modeling responsible phone use for your staff — just like you’d want them to do with your clients.

Kirstie MacArthur is Director of Sales at SETWorks.