Pew Research Center reported that 95% of Americans own some type of cell phone as of January 2017. The report also indicated that 77% of Americans own a smartphone, more than double the figure reported in the Center’s first smart phone ownership survey conducted in 2011.
That means there’s a cell phone in just about every person’s pocket. And that creates a lot of distraction. According to results from research conducted by CareerBuilder in 2016, 1 in 5 employers (19 percent) think workers are productive less than five hours a day.
The reality is that cell phones are a part of daily life and creating a device-free barn is unrealistic. And in some cases, an employee might be using the phone to communicate with you or clients, order needed supplies or interact with a veterinarian or other service provider.
While banning cell phones is impractical unless there are legitimate safety concerns, that doesn’t mean a manager can’t set boundaries. For example, an employee might not be allowed to use his or her phone during training sessions when the person's full attention should be on the horse he or she is riding or the lesson the employee should be teaching.
The same CareerBuilder research cited texting and personal messaging as the largest productivity killers in the workplace, the vast majority of which is personal in nature. That means that it might be appropriate to limit employee cell phone use to break times, including lunch.
With the prevalence of smart phones, it might mean setting expectations with clients, too. An employee might be spending a lot of time communicating with a client on a work-related topic. It’s important for clients to feel comfortable calling for updates on a horse’s progress or to get answers to questions. Because some clients simply enjoy chatting as if catching up with a friend, they call frequently and can be long-winded.
Once you decide on a policy that is practical for your barn, put it in writing and ask employees to sign an acknowledgement of it. And as the leader, set an example and follow the same guidelines.