In today’s “connected” world, few of us can go hours without checking our email, text messages, and social media posts. The same is true for urgent care center providers and staff.

However, when patients see employees chatting or texting on their cell phones, they can get the impression that the focus is on the employee’s personal concerns and not patient care. For an employer, this behavior represents lost on the clock productivity, with the opportunity cost being foregone customer service. Not to mention risk to patient personal health information (resulting in a HIPAA violation) or business trade secrets being disseminated online as employees take inappropriate photos or make inappropriate comments intended for friends and family regarding workplace activities.

To cope, many urgent care operators have implemented a “no cell phones” policy for employees during their shifts. Some centers have gone so far as to install lockers in the break room where employees can secure their phones while working. While it’s true that employers don’t pay employees to be on their personal phones all day, there are times that employees do need to hear from a child, doctor, or pharmacist or has other business that can only be conducted during business hours. Most employers adopt policies that balance the needs of the business with the realities of employing people.

The best defense is a written policy that is communicated to all employees during orientation. A “reasonable” policy encourages employees to make all personal phone calls during their lunch hours and breaks, to limit their time spent on the telephone to avoid disrupting patients and co-workers, to “silence” (put on vibrate) the phone while in meetings, to speak quietly and defer intimate or personal details to a later conversation, to avoid harassing or discriminatory language (including comments about race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability), and to avoid keeping business data on personal devices. Additionally, written cell phone policies generally prohibit anything but “hands-free” calls while driving.

Alan Ayers, MBA, MAcc
Vice President of Strategic Initiatives
Practice Velocity, LLC
Practice Management Editor
JUCM, The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine

Workplace Cell Phone Policies Should Be Reasonable—but Firm

Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc

President of Experity Networks and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine
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