CHICAGO — The telephone is essential to any business. We have an answering machine that takes messages from our (mostly commercial) drycleaning customers and helps us plan the following day’s route schedule.
But my cell phone, and those of my brother and sons in the business, are just as important. Each of us handles specific customers, and most of those customers have our cell numbers.
An answering service also refers clients to our mobile phones for emergency purposes. We have the option not to answer, of course, and let the calls go to voicemail. The business also maintains two “emergency” cell phones.
The handbook we give to employees used to have a fairly weak policy on cell-phone use, until I amended it to read, “All personal cell phones and pagers must be turned off while you are clocked in. If anyone is trying to reach you in an emergency or urgently needs to contact you, they may do so by calling our business number.”
We put all calls through to employees, and will continue to do so as long as the practice isn’t abused. Employees can use their personal cell phones on breaks, but not on company time. We also restrict the use of iPods, personal CD players and similar devices.
Occasionally, an employee needs to be reminded about the policy on which they signed off upon accepting our employment—and they violate the cell-phone policy repeatedly. You can’t press or clean a garment safely while you’re holding a cell phone!
I’ve had several discussions with the offenders, ruffling a few feathers. I even investigated a device that silently jams cellular signals, thinking about the many times I’ve been forced to listen to strangers yammer on about their lives in public places.
Such “blockers” or “jammers” are designed for use in theaters, museums and libraries—places where silence is the norm. I tried to order one, but quickly found out that signal blockers are illegal in the United States.
I’m happy that cell phone use is facing increasing scrutiny with traffic safety in mind, but wish there was a way to better legislate their use in my plant. When used on the job, cell phones present a safety problem—people can’t pay full attention to what they’re doing while they’re on the phone.