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Are mobile phone breaks the new fag breaks?

Doesn’t seem so long ago that employers and colleagues were constantly annoyed by the amount of smoking breaks taken by employees. On the whole, this has significantly reduced across the board. However, this irritation has seemed  quickly replaced by mobile phone use in the workplace. So, are mobile phone breaks the new fag breaks in the workplace?

We all know (whether we admit it or not) that our mobile phones are addictive, we all crave knowing exactly what’s going on and there seems to be this need to check them regularly. Be this for making arrangements at the weekend, planning dinner with your partner, keeping up to date with the ‘constantly pinging’ whatsapp groups or checking social media.

Somehow, the life of a mobile phone has become a need of society, so is this really acceptable in workplace? The answer is no, we all go to work to work, we are not paid to be communicating with our pals or our parents while we are at work. The reality is, you wouldn’t spend time on the work phone making personal calls all day, so you shouldn’t be on your mobile phone.

Most employers now recognise that mobile phones in the workplace can be disruptive, cause loss of productive time and affect concentration and efficiency. However, there seems in some workplaces to be a fear of tackling it.

We have some top tips:

  • Explain to employees that mobile phone use in the workplace is not OK, be clear to set out why, both in terms of the business and colleagues.
  • Lead by example, if directors and Line Managers are regularly on mobile phones, this is not going to help your argument (even if you are the boss!)
  • Put in place a mobile phone usage policy – make it clear what employees can do.
  • Provide somewhere safe for employees to keep phones – lockers, locked drawers…
  • Make it clear that they can use their mobile phone in their breaks and in an emergency/necessity their family can call them on the company phone number.

I think the comparison of a smoker taking a fag break is a good way of explaining the impact an individuals use has on their colleagues and the time away from their desk/work. It’s all about driving change in behaviour and whilst it might feel like a difficult conversation, you will instantaneously see an increase in production. What’s more, wouldn’t we all feel a lot better with a break from our phones!

Article by Gemma Murphy, Director, ViewHR: or 01425 205391