Employee Abuse of Cell Phones

There's a right way and a wrong way to use your cell phone at work.
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If it's hard to get into the bathroom at your workplace because all the stalls are filled with employees hiding out, frantically sending text messages and checking social media networks, your workplace has a cell phone problem. While some workplaces have forbidden cell phone use altogether, making it grounds for being fired, resourceful employees can always find a place to sequester themselves with their phone -- like the bathroom. Getting caught, however, could mean getting fired.

Effect on Your Work

    Your employer puts money in your bank account in exchange for the work you do. It's reasonable for your employer to expect that you're spending your work time working, which doesn't include checking text messages, playing games or peeking at stock quotes. Most offices understand that kids have issues, your mom might need to get in touch with you or that you need to make doctor's appointments occasionally. But they also understand that excessive time on your cell phone is essentially stealing, because you're not giving your employer his money's worth of work. And if you're trying to work and check your phone at the same time, you're more likely to make work mistakes, which also costs your employer money.

Effect on Co-workers

    If you want to aggravate your co-workers, spend time on your cell phone while they're working, or leave your phone on while you're elsewhere in the office so they can listen to your annoying ring tone -- the one you picked to designate that your kids are calling -- over and over. Co-workers are understandably upset when they're working and you're not, even though you're both being paid to do so. The ringing of a cell phone also distracts your co-workers from their own tasks, causing a break in concentration that affects their productivity. And saying that everyone does it is no excuse, because there's always at least one person who is a stickler for rules in every office -- and she could end up being your next boss.

Effect on your Job

    Bosses have become angry enough about cell phone use during work hours to enact strong policies about cell phone use and what it means for your future employment. You might receive a formal reprimand that stays in your work file until the end of time, or even be fired for excessive cell phone use at work. If there's a written policy forbidding cell phone use except at certain times, such as on breaks and at lunch, you won't have a leg to stand on if you want to keep your job.

Legal Issues

    In most cases, there are no government regulations about using cell phones at work; the exceptions being if you work in certain government offices or municipal jobs, like city bus drivers. However, if you make a mistake at work because you were taking a peek at your phone to make sure none of your friends has done anything earthshaking in the last five minutes, it could be a costly mistake. If you work as a teacher's aide, for example, and aren't watching the kids on the playground because you're looking at your phone, or a hospital worker distracted by your cell phone, the mistake could cost not only you but someone else. If an accident or error occurs, your cell phone records could end up in court with you.

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