Few managers or colleagues approve of other staff members making or taking personal calls during office hours – it’s rarely work related, and takes the caller’s mind off the job. Not only that, but it can impact on everyone’s productivity and performance, especially in an open-plan environment. Here’s how to take control of the situation…

While some employers believe all personal calls during work hours should be prohibited, in reality this may not be practical. So firstly, it’s a good idea to determine under what circumstances they’re allowed, such as:

  • Family emergencies
  • Calls from a child’s school

It may even be that an employee is expecting some big news, and thinking about it all day will keep them distracted from work – a little leeway allowing them to make a quick call to find out will help them to re-focus to their work tasks.

Implementing a policy

While the above situations may warrant a personal call, if they become a habit, you’ll need to take action. Spending copious company time and resources focusing on something other than work will have detrimental effects on the individual’s performance, as well as the business itself, so you need a policy in place to clarify the rules.

Here are some things to consider:

  • If employees are using company equipment to make or take calls, you can introduce restrictions on the use of this company property.
  • Decide whether some limited personal use is tolerated, or whether the policy strictly prohibits staff from using the company equipment for any non-work related, personal purpose.
  • Make sure that all employees are aware that communications, on company devices, including telephone calls, are monitored prior to intercepting their personal communication.
  • Your policy should state what consequences will follow in the event of a breach – this is usually disciplinary action, according to your disciplinary procedure.

Regardless of whether your policy allows for some private calls or not, you should still impose a limit and trigger points for a disciplinary procedure.

If you do allow reasonable personal use of company equipment, ensure that you act consistently when investigating if a member of staff has breached that rule, sticking to any precedents you may have established previously.