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Real Issues. Real Answers. Cell phones at work

By / March 6, 2018

cell phones at workThe Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has definitely reached the LBM world. With the vast majority of Americans owning cell phones (95%, according to the Pew Research Center), and 77% with smartphones, it’s a given that most everyone at your company has a cell phone of some kind. Since everyone already has a phone with them all the time anyway, a growing number of companies are rethinking their policies regarding cell phone use—including who owns the phone that employees use to do their jobs. To learn more about how LBM companies are navigating this challenge/opportunity, this month’s Real Issue focuses on cell phones at work.

This month’s question was suggested by two readers, both of whom are wrestling with the challenge of how best to navigate the use of cell phones at work (and both of whom will receive a LBM Journal Prize Pack). As with all Real Issues, there is no single right answer, but many different ways to approach the topic.

As we do each month, we sent an email survey to the readers who’ve opted in to receive our email communications. A big thank you to the 270 readers who took time to weigh in on this timely topic. If you’d like to participate in future surveys, please drop me a note at [email protected], and we’ll get you added.

cell phones statistics

Question 1

First, we wanted to get a feel for how many readers provide company phones to their employees. As Graph 1 shows, just over 2/3 of readers’ companies (67.7%) confirm that they do provide cell phones to salespeople and other employees.

Question 2

Second, we wanted to gauge how flexible companies are when it comes to using company phones vs. personal phones. As Graph 2 shows, more than half of respondents’ companies (56%) allow employees to use either personal or company phones for company business, while 18% require the use of company phones only, and 15.3% (clearly those with strong BYOD policies in place) require personal phones for business use.


Question 3

Next, we wanted to learn how companies compensate employees who use their own cell phones for company business. More than half (57.7%) of companies do not compensate employees for calls made conducting company business. Of those who do (shown in Graph 3), 43.1% pay a predetermined flat fee/stipend per employee, while 29.3% of respondents’ companies pay most or all (75-100%) of an employee’s monthly cell charges. Of the 15.5% who chose “Other,” representative answers include:

“Outside sales reps and some inside people use their own phones for company business. We reimburse $75-$100 per month depending on the position of the employee.”

“Managers and outside sales have 50% paid, other employees have no need to use a cell phone at work.”

“We pay 75% of sales and management, and 25% of drivers’ phone bills.”

“We pay an allowance for personal phone use.”

“Most we pay 100% of monthly charges. Others we pay a flat fee.”

“We do not provide any compensation or reimbursement for personal phones as management and the sales force all have company-provided phones. Others that use their phones for company use only need to do so occasionally to make contact with customers to coordinate deliveries on site, etc.”


Question 4

Our company policy has always been to not allow personal cell phone use in the workplace, which is why we provide cell phones to salespeople and some other employees. We’ve been thinking of allowing employees to use their own device—then reimburse in part or in full. Along with productivity concerns, there are legal issues as well. How do other lumberyards manage this?

“Our company provides cell phones at no charge to the sales team other than a charge for excessive data use for streaming music. It works well. If a person wants to use their own phone they can, but we won’t pay for it because they have the option to have us pay for one. I don’t know of anyone that uses their own phone because the need to use work email on phones for business, would just be needlessly complicated.”

“We’ve become more flexible as phones are ubiquitous and expectations of being available for spouses and children have changed. We ask employees to limit personal use at work for productivity and safety reasons and deal individually if we see abuse of this privilege. We’ve had very few problems.”

“Cell phones are only part of the larger challenge which involves social media, internet use, and the increasingly blurred lines between work and personal time.”

“Employee choice, but no reimbursement for personal phones.”

“We provide cell phones to managers, and inside and outside sales people if they would like one. The other option is our sales team can use their personal phones and we have a program in place that reimburses them a portion of their bill for business use.”  “Sales representatives and yard management are provided with a company cell phone. That number belongs to the company as well as the employee email address. Drivers and others have their own personal phones, and can use them to coordinate with customers for deliveries etc. when necessary.”

“We are switching to personal cell phones and we will reimburse. We have had company-provided phones but opted to go to personal ones.”

“Store and yard staff are not to use cell phones on company time. Sales people use the company-provided cell phone which, in most instances, becomes their personal phone. This hasn’t been an issue.”

“No personal cell phones, only company-provided and paid for cell phones.”

“I provide phones for key managers. They may use them as they wish. I have one manager who didn’t want to get a new phone. I pay him $25 per month for the company use of his cell phone.”

“I know that some places offer a check for so much a month to reimburse for cell phones.”

“The employee owns the phone and we pay a portion of the monthly bill. we explain that they need to limit their personal business on company time. and it helps to alleviate some of the legal aspects.”

“We do not provide any cell phones to employees. If there is business usage, we will reimburse them a flat fee.”

“I know of no legal issues, at least none have been raised in the 15 years or more that we have been doing this.”

“We provide cell phones to salespeople, managers, and drivers (for GPS and signature capture). We don’t police personal vs. business use. These phones in this era increase productivity and enhance communications far more than any distraction or cost from personal time concerns. We do have stringent policies regarding misuse (sexting, drug dealing, pornography etc.), and we retain ownership of all records of any conversations, texts, emails conducted on our equipment.”

“For a long time, I wouldn’t allow personal cell phone use during working hours period with the outside sales force being the exception. As the use of email and texting expanded within our customer base and became their preferred method of communication, it also became a necessity for our inside salespeople to use their phones outside of business hours if we want to survive.”

“We try to limit personal calls to personal time, but they all sneak in a bit.”

“Our company-provided phones are used as if they are our personal phones.”

“Employee owns the phone, we own the number.”

“Use personal only when needed and not too often.”

“We discourage the use of personal phones for business and therefore do not compensate those employees.”

“We provide cell phones to owners, outside sales staff, and service techs. We allow them to use these phones for personal use if they wish. Some of our inside sales staff and truck drivers use their personal cell phones for business, but it is very limited. The only person who has the drivers’ numbers is our dispatcher. We do not reimburse our staff who use their personal cell phones for business, as it is very limited and most would rather not carry a separate phone for business.”

“We have not run into any issues with cell phone use at work. Our employees have not raised any issues with using their own phones for business because, these days, most people have unlimited cell phone minutes anyways.”

“Only drivers and management have company-paid phones. If a private phone is used, the company reimburses the employee for part of the bill.”

“We are a small company in a community of less than 5,000 people. It helps our staff stay connected with the community and occasionally help customers with after-hours emergencies.”

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Rick Schumacher

Rick Schumacher is the editor and publisher of LBM Journal, and has more than 25 years experience covering the industry. [email protected]