As we have frequently seen on our forums, the changes in demographics and technology within the auto repair business can create conflict between employees and management. One of the issues that can easily create tension in a shop is that of cell phones and other electronic devices.
While people from all generations have embraced computers and new tech, younger workers have grown up steeped in both technology and change. Because of this, the majority of younger workers are connected online far more than the older workers, many of whom can remember living their lives without ever carrying a phone around. Because of this difference in experiences, resentments can emerge when management rules that employees can’t use their cell phones during working hours.
Why are cell phones a problem in the shop? Because they are a distraction. That is why people are so attached to them – they stave off boredom at any moment it can occur. Unfortunately, they also take away people’s focus when it’s needed. People may be able to talk on the phone and push a broom without a problem, but repairing vehicles that will be turned out on the road is a different matter. That kind of work needs the full focus of the technician. A small mistake due to distraction could lead to an accident, injury, or even death – either in the shop or later on the road.
Auto shop managers have approached the cell phone issue in a number of ways. Some of them ban cell phones entirely. Some of them differentiate between workers in different categories. Technicians must put or lock their cell phones away when they are not on lunch or a break, but people working in the office may be allowed to have them as long as they don’t abuse the privilege. Other managers argue that employees such as service advisors need to have their phones on them at all times, and others – including technicians – may need to have access to information on their cell phones so they should be allowed.
There is no one answer to this problem, but it is always wise for a manager to create policies for issues like this – particularly when their workers are likely to object or complain. Taking into account the needs of the shop and its history with this problem, an appropriate policy can be written and then included in the employee handbook and in all training of new employees. Then everyone knows what it is and what will happen if the policy is not followed. It is, of course, a given that the policy, whatever it is, must be followed and enforced for all employees equally.
Managers pay their workers for their time and attention, and they deserve to have both when workers are on the clock. However, different styles of management do exist as do different types of workers. How does your auto repair shop handle the “cell phone problem?”