30 Days of Blog - Day 14 - Cell phones in the workplace

Welcome to day 14 of 30. At the close of the second week it feels like we have covered so many topics! Today let's talk about what I consider a pretty straightforward topic. This one is about personal cell phones in the workplace. 

Not too terribly long ago every cafe had a land line for incoming and outgoing calls. Obviously times have changed, and it seems there is a smartphone in every person's pocket. We all consider our phones a part of our lives these days and they certainly help connect us together and keep us up to date with the masses. Along with the advent of our now standard social media outlets, and especially Instagram, we have become a picture snapping and posting society. 

There can be various debates over how healthy our now constant screen time is, but it is easy to see the value of global communication and sharing of knowledge for the coffee industry. I believe the massive growth we have had over the past 10 years is at least partly thanks to our ability to shoot messages to coffee friends all over the globe at all times of day. Our world has definitely changed in some positive ways.

On the other hand, as we have been getting more and more connected, a lot of workplace behavior has changed for the worse. I make jokes about the number of times a latte gets posted in Instagram prior to being served, but this is sadly rooted in some truth. Now it is incredibly common to see a barista messaging, reading, watching videos, posting to social media, or any number of other non work related activities. This far from a specialty coffee industry problem, since I see it as a reflection of service industry behavior in general. 

Maybe it happens to us more because we tend to be less strict with staff in coffee. I can't really tell you for sure. 

One of the reasons I see phone use behind the counter as a problem is clearly the customer impression. Everyone knows when you are staring at your phone. There are very few reasons in human behavior, perhaps a seizure, where a person stares blankly toward the floor for more than 30 seconds. It is obvious when you hide the phone to stare at it, and it is even worse when customers can see you holding it. 

When you are looking at a phone I know you are not focused on me as a customer. In fact many times I assume you care very little for me at all. This is not the way to bring back happy excited customers to your cafe. It is disappointing and unprofessional.

The other big reason I have a problem with phone use is hygiene. There have been numerous stories lately about just how dirty smart phones tend to be, but their use behind the counter almost never leads to hand washing prior to touching food products. Like coffee. 

So I find no place for cell phone use, especially behind the bar, in the work environment. There are of course exceptions such as managerial use and emergencies. There always needs to be interpretation and standards made depending on the cafe's expectations of employees. If you were to ask me I would tell you that phones should be strictly prohibited in view of guests, and time using a phone by non managerial staff should be limited to breaks. This might seem too strict for some of you, but I think it works best. That way everyone must abide by the same rules. 

Another thing for you to consider is your company culture. If your staff is too busy engaging in the necessities of your company, they won't have much chance to play with a phone in the first place. When staff is happy doing their jobs, they also won't have bored idle moments where they get drawn into their phones. 

So there you have it, my relatively simple and straightforward look at cell phone use in the workplace. I would love to hear your opinions on this issue, so please tag me and share if you like!

Thanks for coming late on Sunday, see you tomorrow!

Pete

Posted on September 17, 2017 and filed under Blog.