Finding a work-smartphone balance

While technology can be an important tool, personal use is tough to regulate.

By 
Bianca N. Herron, Digital Editor

workers beam smartphones

Jed Greeke has a straightforward policy for smartphone use among the 45 employees he supervises at the University of New Hampshire: If a verbal warning doesn’t work, their phone is taken and held until the end of the shift.

“We have a lot of student workers, and our policy pretty much says that anything that can go ‘beep’ has to be kept in your locker or not brought to work,” says the assistant manager of catering and conferences at the Durham, N.H., university.

Regulating employees’ smartphone use might make operators feel like an overbearing parent, but it’s becoming a necessary evil of the workplace. One in four workers in a 2014 CareerBuilder survey admitted to spending at least one hour during the workday on personal calls, emails and texting, while half of employers in the same survey noted cellphones and texting as the primary productivity stopper in their workplace.

Because smartphones have been woven into daily life, operators have to learn to use the technology in their favor, says Chas Kelly, vice president of culinary services at Watercrest Senior Living Group. “You just can’t fight [technology],” says Kelly, who trains his employees to give family members the operation’s direct number in case they need to be contacted. “You have to constantly look at it, change it as you see fit as things evolve, and you’ll never get caught behind the curve.”

The 52 employees he oversees in the Vero Beach, Fla.-based retirement community use their smartphones to compile online inventories, look up recipes and communicate with Kelly about scheduling. “If I call, it goes to voicemail, but if I text I’ll immediately get a response,” he says of filling a shift outside of work hours.

Bill Claypool, assistant director and executive chef of dining services at Vanderbilt University, says his department is looking to revamp its smartphone policy by the fall semester to something more realistically enforceable. Currently, no electronic devices are allowed in any work area; but Claypool says another part of the rule, which states staffers aren’t allowed to use their phones in view of customers, is what’s really giving him problems.

“They’re allowed to have their phones while on break, and naturally they’re going to pull it out to see what’s been going on when [they’re] eating,” Claypool says. “We encourage them to eat in the dining hall so that they are visible to customers, so it is impossible for their phones not to be visible at that point.”

Along with six other assistant directors, Claypool oversees 243 employees, and says the entire supervisory team wants to be savvier with wording the new policy. “We know we need to let phones become more enmeshed with our operation and trust [staffers] to do the right thing,” he says. “At the end of the day, you’re either paying attention to your work or phone.”

Kelly agrees. “Keeping staff off of their phones is very manageable if you’re on top of the issue,” he says. “It’s one of those small things that can become a major issue if you let it go in the beginning.” 

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
management team

Last week’s NACUFS National Conference proved to be a treasure trove of management and staffing takeaways. Here are a few we noted at the annual event , held this year in Providence, R.I.

1. Make it scalable

When explaining something new to staff, instead of asking, “You got it?” or “You with me?” have employees rate how well they understand the new material on a scale of 1 to 10, said Ron Paul, a senior consulting partner for Partners in Leadership, during a session on building accountability in the workplace. People are likely to say yes even when they don’t fully grasp what you’...

Ideas and Innovation
song break

Once per month in a daily huddle, we dedicate a few minutes for the staff to sing a short song. The staff has responded so positively to this. They now bring costumes and other props. It's a few short minutes, but the payoff has been tremendous.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Ideas and Innovation
plastic straws

An item about the size of a pencil has become the latest target in foodservice operators’ sustainability plans. Though small, plastic straws are said to have a large impact on the environment, with Americans using approximately 500 million straws each day, according to a release from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, which temporarily ditched plastic straws as part of an Earth Day promotion this year.

In recent months, a growing number of eateries and cities across the United States have scrapped plastic straws. In July, Seattle enacted a ban on plastic straws and utensils, requiring...

Industry News & Opinion

Medford High School in Medford, Mass., is looking to add an orchard to its campus, Wicked Local reports.

The idea for the orchard was brought forth by students looking to help combat food insecurity. They are working with the school’s nutritionist to make the orchard a reality.

If planted, the orchard would be located inside the school’s courtyard and would grow fruits such as apples, paw paws, blueberries, peaches and plums. It would also include an outdoor classroom space.

The school committee signed off on the project last year; however, some administrators are...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code