Employees and Cellphone Use During Work Hours



Question: Employees are spending a lot of time on their phones (scrolling social media, browsing the internet, listening to music or podcasts). Can we prohibit personal phone use during work hours?

Answer from Rachel, SHRM-SCP: Yes, you can limit or prohibit use of personal devices during work hours. Employees can be expected to give their undivided attention to the work you pay them to perform, and if that means phones need to be silenced or put away, you are entitled to make this request. An all-out ban on phone use may not be necessary, however. Periodic mental health breaks can actually improve overall productivity. And if an employee is able to work efficiently and not distract their colleagues while listening to music or a podcast, there’s probably no reason to prohibit them from doing so.


However you decide to approach cell phone use during work hours, employees should be allowed to use them during their break and meal periods. This time needs to be truly their own in order to satisfy the requirements of many state laws.


Be sure to outline your expectations in a handbook policy and distribute it to all employees.




Rachel has a background as an HR Generalist in a variety of industries. After completing a B.A. in Psychology, she began her HR background in employee relations, staffing and payroll. During her free time, Rachel is an avid kayaker and plans to visit every National Park during her lifetime.

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