Technology in the workplace

June 12th, 2018

It seems like not that long ago “technology in the workplace” referred to fax machines and floppy discs, but things certainly have changed in the last 10 years. Smart phones, email, and wireless networks have revolutionized the way business is being done, but with these advances in technology come a whole new set of problems.

Cellphones in the workplace

Whether it is communicating with employees via company issued smartphones or dealing with a secretary who just won’t stop texting, cellphones are impacting businesses left and right. Here are a few areas that employers should be looking out for as employees become more and more connected to these devices:

  • Texting and driving
  • If your employee is texting using a company device (or just texting for work related purposes) while driving and causes an accident, a court can find your business responsible. To avoid such problems, employers should have a “no texting while driving” policy in place, and enforce it strictly.
  • Wage hour issues
  • It may seem harmless to text an employee a question after he or she has gone home for the day, but if that employee is nonexempt you may be opening yourself up for an FLSA lost wages claim. To be safe employers should either avoid frequently contacting employees outside of work hours or should make sure that employees record the time spent working outside of the office.
  • Lost productivity
  • A personal phone call, texting on and off, or even the occasional game of Candy Crush can add up to some serious loss of production, but is it realistic to ban cell phone use all together? While a policy that prohibits personal phone use can hurt moral, and lead to longer breaks, some employers have found that a policy detailing the acceptable limits of phone use can be successful in curbing overuse.

BYOD issues

Allowing employees to use their own devices (tablets, laptops, cell phones, etc) in the office, and to connect them to servers and networks, can cut down on technology costs and promotes a collaborative work environment. While there are many upsides to a BYOD policy, it can raise security issues and privacy issues. If you have decided to allow the use of personal devices it is key to implement a clear policy outlying what behavior is allowed/prohibited. Some things to cover in a BYOD policy include:

  • A requirement that passwords be used on all devices that contain company documents.
  • An explanation of what types of devices may be used.
  • A list of apps that aren’t allowed: for example some apps may have weak security or others may allow an employee to conduct illegal downloads over your network.
  • A reminder that the company’s acceptable use policy extends to personal devices, and that some sites are not appropriate for the workplace.

Employee monitoring

Staying current with the changing technology can be tricky, but one thing that remains the same is that it is in an employer’s best interest to communicate to employees that any employer owned property (no matter what it is or how it is used) is subject to monitoring.  While most employers don’t feel the need to conduct routine monitoring, it is advisable to obtain signed acknowledgments from employees that when it comes to using company devices they have no expectation to privacy.

For sample acknowledgment forms and monitoring policies, check your Model Policies and Forms guide.

As technology advances employers need to make sure their policies and procedures grow with it – having a policy that doesn’t protect your company would be more embarrassing than having an original iPhone!