General Question

LuckyGuy's avatar

What can be done to keep workers from playing with their phones when whey should be working?

Asked by LuckyGuy (40059points) January 23rd, 2020

I was at visiting a senior care facility recently and noticed that many of the employees were constantly holding and fiddling with their phones while the patient call button incessantly beeped. They take care of a person’s needs and then whip out the phone and start fiddling while they are walking or sit in the lounge.
There was someone sitting behind a counter working at a computer. I figured she was managing a spreadsheet of employee services. I was forward, and a bit sneaky, and managed to look at the monitor. She was scrolling FB posts. At one point there were 3 people standing in the hall looking at pictures while call lights were blinking for a couple of rooms.
I get that these are minimum wage jobs and sometimes that means you get minimum interest people. But shouldn’t they do their jobs?
What can be done to prevent employees from goofing off with their phones? Are there technical or policy solutions?
A company policy that prohibits phones will not work. What if there is an emergency?
Social media, FB, Twitter, etc, can be blocked from the company Wifi but that would limit patients, too. And the staff could access via their own data plans.
Signal jamming would work but it would disrupt visitors and patients as well.

How can the distraction of social media be eliminated or reduced so employees concentrate on doing their jobs?
Does your company have a policy on this subject?
Have you seen examples of this distraction in other settings?

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48 Answers

Coolhandluke's avatar

A reward program I think would suffice. If you’re not on your phone unless on breaks for X amount of time, you’ll get X.

chyna's avatar

A nurse at the hospital I work at was on her phone, against regulations. A man came up to her and asked for a cup of ice. She said sure and went to get it leaving her phone. He grabbed it and ran. I think it was still open and he accessed some of her accounts.
But I’m not sure what the answer is.
(As I sit at work answering this)

Patty_Melt's avatar

It is a problem, that is a fact, but during my hospital stay last year I learned that not all of that was messing around. Sometimes they were texting vitals to a nurse who could not be there in the moment. Sometimes they were conveying patient concerns to get quicker answers.
I’m not excusing the bad behavior. It is a serious concern.

I have given thought to the same problem. Kids use phones in school, and around the clock. The thing kind of exploded, leaving parents, teachers and other adults unable to address the problems which come with instant media.
It’s a first generation issue.
I don’t think elders are the ones to address the issue. I think it will be a second generation fix.
In other words, after the first generation of users-from-birth make a mess of things, it will be the next generation who will see not only the problems, but have a unique perspective to address the issues.
That will shake things up, and likely take on other problems along the way.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Notices should be placed everywhere about not using cellphones in Senior care facilities.

Staff policies need to be reviewed as staff definitely don’t need the cellphone while at work.

They should be reported and possibly the employee either leaves the cellphone at the security desk and retrieve it on leaving the facility.
As for family emergencies the staff should have the employees families call the Administration or Human resources to get into contact by other means.( other than a cellphone)
By the way even visitors were required to turn off there cellphones when visiting etc

SQUEEKY2's avatar

All the company can do is put a policy saying personal use of cell phones on company time except for emergency is prohibited, and one can face a reprimand if caught but that is about it I think.

rebbel's avatar

I work in a furniture workshop and we’re ‘encouraged’ to not whip it out during working hours.
The trainees have considerably more difficulty with it than the older generation (for both groups; it is not all of them).
I feel in certain fields it should be ‘encouraged’ as well.
Maybe prohibitive.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@Inspired_2write I don’t think taking them from the employee is the answer, in some care homes these people can get quite violent towards the care giver and they might need the phone to call for help.
Personal use of these devices need to be curbed for all companies it’s getting out of hand people seem to have it glued to one of their hands.

LuckyGuy's avatar

In my previous work environment there was no cell phone reception due to shielding, EMI and RFI. We could access the internet but not personal social media. It was locked out. That seemed fair in a world before cell phone addiction.

Getting back to my Q. I was in second facility and saw very few employees carrying their phones. They might have had them but they were not sitting or walking while fiddling.

If anyone is interested in the names of the 2 facilities PM me. I’ll just state the facts.

hmmmmmm's avatar

While much has been made of the distraction of “new” tech, I do think we give it too much credit for ruining things. While the time before mobile phones and ubiquitous computers feels like a long time ago, I have plenty of memories of this time. And things weren’t that great.

In the case you’re describing – a senior care facility – keep in mind that these places have been notorious for providing bad service. These are extremely low-paying positions that have very little reward, and have a high burnout rate. I have been to them prior to modern tech, and they were staffed by people reading and playing solitaire. It was depressing.

Rather than try to make to a special case about social media or modern tech, it might make sense to look at what it would take to employ people who feel invested and motivated to do a good job in their care of the elderly. If they are browsing Facebook, doing a newspaper crossword, or reading a magazine while there are room alarms going off, they are not doing their job. The source of their distraction is not relevant.

It might help to actually pay these people a living wage and provide some opportunity for growth and a future. As it exists right now, providing an exceptional level of care pays the same as providing horrible care, and there is no reasonable career map that would resemble progress and growth.

If we want to provide exceptional care for our elders, we need to act as though we do. Shoving people into for-profit facilities that pay people poverty wages to do depressing work with no hope of “moving up” means that we are guaranteeing poor care. The least reasonable approach would be to try to find a way to exert more control on the workers.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The problem is both real and in many instances acute. A while ago, I was considering which goof off schemes dominated the workplace prior to the proliferation of cell phones and computers. And true to the cynicism typical of my world view have concluded that nothing short of the threat (and demonstration) of brute force will prohibit those marooned in jobs of tedium and drudgery from slacking through the application of minimum attention to the tasks required. Minimum wage is going to mean minimum performance through concentration of those unable or unwilling to “do better” for whatever reason.

gorillapaws's avatar

We designed the layout of our office so that management looks out onto the staff’s screens. It’s hard to goof off when your boss could be looking over your shoulder at any moment and you wouldn’t know.

The main problem here is that patients’ needs aren’t being met. Ultimately, it’s completely irrelevant if the patients are being ignored because the staff is distracted by their phones, if they’re reading books, or playing with themselves in the rest room. In other words, it’s not the phones. Management should be testing staff responsiveness and disciplining failures while praising prompt attention.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The corollary to the above observation is this: in the workplace where tedium and boredom are the rule, both the best and worst workers must be regarded as temporary. The worst will be fired, the best—poached away. In fact, decades back when I was in the process of frequent visits to people in nursing homes, I came to understand that they are ideal recruiting grounds for conscientious people for those tasks in your business centered on manual labor.

si3tech's avatar

The compulsive use of modern tech,phones computers and addictive use of social media is a disaster in the making!

Inspired_2write's avatar

That is what the call bell is for.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

And it was noted here how that bell gets ignored, Mrs Squeeky works in the field that is in question, sometimes it gets violent enough they have to call the police in.
But employees shouldn’t be using their phones for personal use on company time.
Mrs Squeeky just has a flip cell, but she sees her coworkers constantly texting and playing with their damn smart phones when they should be working.

ragingloli's avatar

Cellphone Signal Jammers, and no access to wi-fi.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

No access to wi-fi might work, I am not for cell jammers.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Monitored web access via wifi. It cut down a lot on phone usage once they realized company wifi was monitored for abuse.

Inspired_2write's avatar

That sounds like an excellent idea to curb distractions.

ragingloli's avatar

Get an office dog and train them to bite maul the genitals of anyone they see using a phone.

chyna's avatar

^Always the gentle soul.~

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I know the peace and love we get from @ragingloli just warms the heart.
Why not just a supervisor with a cattle shock prod if caught using a cell for personal use they can just shock prod ya?

ragingloli's avatar

Bad idea. Not only do you have to pay that supervisor a salary, he can also be bribed by the people he is supposed to discipline.

stanleybmanly's avatar

But it’s so much more practical than the dog, particularly if there is any legitimate use for a phone or computer screen in the business.

ragingloli's avatar

That is a big if.

LadyMarissa's avatar

A company policy that prohibits phones will not work. What if there is an emergency?

I had lived over ½ my life before cell phones were invented. EVERY emergency that came up went through the switchboard where I worked & the call was directed to my extension. IF I wasn’t available, the receptionist took a message & made sure that I received it. When traveling, I gave family members my itinerary & phone numbers of where I’d be staying. My Mom wouldn’t call my cell to deliver bad news because she said it could wait until I reached my destination so I wouldn’t have a wreck.

jca2's avatar

In the County I work in, there’s an amusement park where there were a few deaths about a decade ago. The park reviewed its safety procedures and banned employee cell phone use. The ride operators are not allowed to have cell phones on them while at work. This policy is strictly enforced. I was hanging out near a table of “big shots” – park management who were at a table doing administrative work, and a ride operator walked by with his cell phone. One of the big shots called to the employee and told him he’s not supposed to have his phone at work. The boy said “my mom is sick and she may need to reach me.” The big shot said “you know you can give your mom the main number here if she needs to reach you” and he made the boy hand over his phone. He told the boy the phone would be kept in the main office until the end of the boy’s shift.

Recently a friend of mine was in the hospital. When I went to visit her, I noticed the nurses at the nurses’ station sitting scrolling through their phones. Maybe they were on their break, but it’s not a good look when they’re sitting around where people can see them, and they’re scrolling through phones.

My point is, I think only a strict “hand over your cell phone” policy would be the way to go.

kritiper's avatar

Find an electronic device that renders all radio signals null and void within the work area.

JLeslie's avatar

WTH? You just don’t allow phones at work if the person deals with the public or if it’s a safety issue.

They can check their phone during their break or meal time.

If there is an emergency the call could go to their work phone. Or, set the cell phone ringer to have a unique ring for their kids calling.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Thanks for these answers. There certainly is a wide spectrum of usage rules.
When I see people sitting around scrolling or swiping there’s still an element of doubt. They could be working or on break. But if you had to bet, the smart money would be on the “they’re goofing off” side.
Back in the stone age when I was a working at Chicken Delight and McD they taught us that there were always things to do even if there were no customers at the moment. I could sweep the floor, prepare boxes, clean tables, check the bathroom, wipe down the prep machines, etc. Standing around was not an option. Since we was getting paid, we should be working.
The person standing around waiting for someone to tell them what to do would be looked down upon and considered lazy. His hours would be cut first.
Truly it blows my mind that staff at the first hospital can sit there scrolling while the call lights blink. Hospitals must be desperate for help, indeed.
I wonder what would happen if they paid a higher salary and demanded that phones be put away and only accessed in the break room. And then had a camera watching the break room. :-)

JLeslie's avatar

When you have time to lean you have time to clean.

gorillapaws's avatar

@kritiper “Find an electronic device that renders all radio signals null and void within the work area.”

I know you’re probably being tongue-in-cheek, but just to make sure there’s no confusion: it’s illegal to use such devices in the US (and possibly other countries too) in most cases. And for good reason, it could block the signal that a visiting MD might need that there’s an emergency at the hospital and he needs to rush over there ASAP as an example. Always check the laws in your area before using a device like that.

chyna's avatar

I’ve seen doctors looking up drug interactions, cost of drugs and other information for patients that they would have to otherwise wait on the information from someone who was busy playing candy crush on their phone.

jca2's avatar

I think if a nursing home or hospital found it in their best interest, they could make a “no cell phone” policy for certain level of employees, say for example, aides and nurses. The could say you must check your phone into a common, safe area where it would be guaranteed to be guarded while you’re on your shift. Check it in with a signature, check it out with a signature.

If any of those employees were found to have their phone on them while at work, then there would be disciplinary action. First time, a write up, second time, last chance. Third time, termination. Something like that.

If any of those employees wanted to have family get in touch with them, then of course the hospital or nursing home’s landline phones would be available, and the employee is of course free to give those numbers out to family and anybody else who may need it (for example if your car is in the shop and the mechanic needed to call you about it, or anything else). Just like it was prior to cellphones.

A friend is an administrator at a fancy nursing home in Connecticut (one where parents of celebrities go) and she said they have issues just like anywhere else with aides falling asleep on the job and stuff like that. Part of the problem is that aides and nurses may have two or three jobs and so they’re consistently tired. There’s nothing to stop that from happening. Even if the nursing home or hospital paid more for a higher level of care, the aides and nurses still might want to work two or three jobs, which of course is their right.

I think the no cell phone policy would be the way to go. Any employee who doesn’t like it always has the choice not to work there.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jca2 I like that Idea.: No Cell phone policy. The employees should be given an hourly wage increase as compensation. If there is a violation the increase is removed for x months.
That would be an interesting experiment to run. The hospital might get a different class of people willing to work there.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@gorillapaws You are correct about it being illegal. But for a short while, I worked in an area where cell phones and our wallets were banned because the magnetic field would damage our credit cards and commuter passes.
I forgot only once.

jca2's avatar

Jails also have a no cell phone policy for employees.

si3tech's avatar

Check in their phones with time cards. IMHO this should be done both at work and at school. And definitely in congress! No exception! My friend has a basket at her door where all phones and other tech gadgets are dropped by g’children on entry to g’mothers’ home.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I was thinking about this last night and one way to catch the ones who abuse it is camera’s.

In office settings, security cameras are a safety net in case anything violent happens, with a secondary benefit of being able to check employees. And if employees know they are monitored, especially by mgmt, they will start using the restroom more, but at least in the work area, they will stop or check themselves more.

Sagacious's avatar

I find it irritating. I also know that sometimes they are reporting what they did to close the call. Some hospitals now have an operator who sends call button calls to nurses on their mobile phone. If using one’s mobile phone for work is not required, employers could and in some cases really should ban them from the premises. I feel the same about schools. Kids don’t need phones at school.

jca2's avatar

To bust their chops, ask them “is that part of your job description?” when you see them looking at their phones.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jca2 I’ve asked. “Are you winning?” when I see someone playing some dumb game.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@LuckyGuy I do that to anyone I am dealing with that is on a computer and seems to be taking a while ,I will ask them your not back there playing Pac-man are you?

si3tech's avatar

I found this this morning:
More evidence of our dependency on smart phones. Remove on entry to class, g’mother’s, and especially congress!

snowberry's avatar

You could make employees drop off their phones at the door. If the phone is required for safety reasons or work, management could issue them a work phone that does not allow games or social networking (Including fluther)!

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Sgrayart's avatar

You should not have to worry or wonder. You should be checking in on your workers regularly to make sure they have everything they need to be as efficient as possible. If you find that they have spare time to be checking their facebook, then why not let them?

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