In today's mobile and high-tech society, it's imperative for any business -- no matter how big or small -- to be quickly and easily accessible to customers or clients. Often, especially in service-based industries, this can mean setting up your employees with a cell phone so that they can make and receive calls, access email, and perform other tasks while on the go. However, before you find yourself at the electronics store browsing cell plans, it's important to develop some policies and procedures to ensure you're protected. Read on to learn more about the legal, liability, and logistical considerations you'll need to take into account before shelling out for employee cell phones.
How should your business fund employee cell phones?
While some employees may find themselves using their personal phone for work-related calls or emails occasionally, some state courts have ruled that employees must be reimbursed for any work use of their personal cell phone if they were required to use their personal phone for business. As a result, it's often easier for employers to simply pay for a separate cell phone and plan (or cover the entire cost of the employee's plan) rather than attempt to work out a reimbursement rate for a sporadic amount of calls, emails, and web browsing.
The actual funding of your employees' cell phones can take the form of either a reimbursement or a direct payment from your business to the wireless carrier. If you choose to reimburse your employees for their cell phone expenses, you'll want to ensure your employees provide you with an itemized bill so that you'll be able to deduct these expenses on your taxes (and they won't be charged to your employees as regular income).
Should you purchase new phones for your employees or let them continue using their own?
Although reimbursing wireless carrier charges for an employee sounds less expensive than purchasing new phones (and plans) for all your employees, allowing them to continue using personal phones can significantly limit your ability to control their use of their private phones. Even if you're paying the entire phone bill for an employee who still uses his or her or original phone for both work and personal purposes, your ability to control use of this phone is very limited. Often, paying for your employees' phones (and requiring them to pay for any replacements needed before the contract term is up) is a better long-term option.
What is the easiest way to equip your employees with cell phones to be used for work only?
When your business is paying for a cell phone, you want to ensure it's being used for business purposes only -- paying extra data charges so that your employee can play video games or stream music or movies can be counterproductive to your business's success. Fortunately, there are a variety of website-tracking and use monitoring software programs available that can alert you if your employees attempt to access prohibited websites. Certain programs can even log keystrokes, helping you access your employees' text messages or emails if needed. These programs can also immediately cut off your employees' access to the phone's data (and make it impossible to delete data) after termination of their employment, protecting you from a spiteful deletion of important data.
Before investing in monitoring software, you'll want to publish a cell phone use policy in your employee handbook. Along with setting out the structure of the reimbursement or payment program, you'll want to inform your employees that activities on their work cell phone may be monitored or recorded, and improper use of a company cell phone can be grounds for termination. Having a clear cell phone policy in writing can help legally protect you if an employee's cell phone is misused or if the employee refuses to return the phone after he or she has been fired.
To learn more about managing company phones, check out a site like www.landesk.com.
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