How Can Managers Get Workers To Stop Looking At Their Phones?

Trying to keep distractions away from staff can sometimes seem impossible
Trying to keep distractions away from staff can sometimes seem impossible
Image Credit: petantik

So here’s a quick quiz for you. How many times each day do the members of your team take out their phone and look at them? It turns out that the answer is 2,617 times per day that we all tap, poke, pinch, or swipe our phones. From a manager point-of-view, just exactly how much time does all of this take? The answer is 2 hours and 25 minutes each and every day. The bad news for you is that most of this is happening while your team members are at work!

The Problem With Phones

So how is a manager supposed to use your manager skills to deal with this problem? Due to a lack of manager training, lots of managers are up in the air about how to deal with the mobile phone problem in their office. They don’t have an idea about how, or for that matter if, they should restrict the use of phones in the office. There is a good side to having and using a smartphone. A smartphone allows a worker to get work done remotely, keep up with clients and people that they work with, and remain in the loop in regards to business changes. However, at the same time, mobile phones are seen as being the single greatest productivity killers in the modern workplace.

Of course, this story gets a little bit worse. It turns out that just having a smartphone nearby can cause a worker’s productivity to start to drop off. A study was done where workers had their smartphones on their desk, but did not touch them. The study revealed that these worker’s cognitive performance was lower than those workers whose phones were placed in another location. The result of this study is that a lot of managers have come to believe that the ability to successfully multitask is really a myth.

What happens when a manager bans mobile phones from meetings? A lot of different techniques have been used. Some managers make team members stand for the rest of a meeting if their phone goes off during the meeting. Others ask that team members leave their phones at their desk when they come to a meeting. Many managers are reporting that what they are seeing is an improvement in the quality of conversations and ideas that people are able to bring to meetings. Additionally, they report that staff seem to show both more respect and appreciation for the work that has been done by others.

Possible Solutions

Managers are still trying to find out how to strike the right balance between having a mobile phone in the office and not allowing it to become a distraction. Many start things off by banning mobile phones from meetings and saying that this a form of team building. Some then take things a step further. They ask team members to refrain from checking their phones as they both head towards and leave a meeting. This can be taken even one step further. Team members can be asked to not use their mobile phones when they are seated at their desk. Instead, common areas have been set up where workers can take their mobile phones and use them there. The result of all of this is that workers end up checking their phones a lot less.

One of the biggest challenges that managers have is that their team members may not believe that there is a problem with their mobile phone usage. They simply don’t realize just how much time they spend using the phones each day. One way that managers can get team members to become aware of the amount of time that their mobile phones are occupying during a day is to install one of the many apps that track the total amount of time an individual spends on their phone each day. Very quickly they’ll be surprised by how much time they are spending. Once they know this, they can then start to reduce the amount of time that they spend on the phone.

Managers need to understand that limiting the use of mobile phones at a meeting is not necessarily going to go over well. You should expect to get some push back. Team members are going to tell you that their mobile devices are critical to them for staying in touch with family members or researching information that they need to do their job. Managers can deal with these objections by telling team members that they can keep their phones, they just can’t have them out and using them during a meeting. Note that if a manager tells staff that no mobile phones are permitted in a meeting, they may simply switch to either smartwatches or start bringing their laptops to meetings. Managers need to understand that any efforts to ban mobile phones may end up being as successful as Prohibition once was.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers have yet another issue that they need to learn how to deal with. It turns out that those mobile phones that everyone has are taking up a great deal of time and serving as a distraction for every member of your team. You are going to have to take action, but what should you do?

Mobile phones are powerful tools that allow workers to accomplish tasks and stay in touch. However, at the same time they can be productivity killers. It turns out that workers don’t even have to use a phone to be impacted by it. Just having a smartphone nearby can diminish the cognitive performance of a worker. When managers ban mobile phones from meetings they start to get better ideas and people interact better. Managers who ask staff to not use their mobile phones at their desk discover that workers end up checking their phones less. Many team members don’t realize how much they use their phones. Installing a time tracking app on their phone can be a real eye opening event. Telling team members that they can’t bring phones to meetings may result in push back and substitutes may be found.

Managers have a responsibility to make sure that their teams are as productive as possible. The arrival of mobile phones in the workplace has been both a good and a bad thing. Employees can easily access information and stay in touch; however, the mobile phones eat up a lot of their available time. Managers need to be aware of this and then take steps to make sure that mobile phones won’t interfere with the work that needs to get done by the team. Study your team and see if you can come up with a solution that will be acceptable to all.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that people who get calls during a meeting should be permitted to leave to take those calls?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How the members of your team communicate with each other is changing. There is a new wave of instant messaging applications that is in the process of changing how the members of your team communicate with each other. This change may be causing the older members of your team to scramble in order to keep up. As a manager, you are going to have to take steps to use your manager skills to make sure that everyone on your team can stay ahead of the changes that are being caused by instant messaging.