Cogosense Blog

Cogosense's Driver Behaviour Blog

Three Reasons Why Companies Are Weaning Employees Off Mobile Devices

Resolutions to change behavior and live healthier lives are common at this time of year. And according to a story in today's New York Times, employers are getting in on the act by adopting policies aimed at weaning employees off mobile devices.

Huh?

I thought mobile productivity was good for business? I thought smart phones and tablets exponentially increased worker productivity? So why on earth would companies want to moderate employee use of mobile devices?

Here's three reasons why:

  1. A recently released study conducted by Daimler, found that "switching-off" after work is critical to being a balanced and productive employee.
  2. A separate study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that while mobile phones were valued as a way to stay productive, there were significant downsides to being tethered to your work at all times.
  3. Evidence shows that companies face significant liability stemming from employee use of mobile devices while driving.

Despite the fact that some forward-thinking companies are beginning to understand the need to balance mobile productivity with employee health and corporate risk concerns; many others still expect employees to answer the phone or respond to the email at any hour of the day under any circumstances, even while driving.

So where does corporate America go from here, you ask?

The answer isn't 100% clear, but Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T. and author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other,” offers a glimpse into the future.  Ms. Turkle predicts that more and more companies will simply ask the question, "how do we help our employees make healthy choices with regard to use of mobile devices in the context of work?"

Healthy Choices

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Distracted Driving Year In Review: Did Your Company Learn the $21 Million Lesson?

In May 2012, a jury in Texas handed down a $21 million verdict against Coca-Cola for damages arising from an August 2010 distracted driving crash involving one of its employees using a mobile phone while driving. As we head into 2013, here are three important lessons commercial risk and fleet managers can learn from this historic case:

  1. When it happens to you, the plaintiffs will sue:  Thomas J Henry, the lead plaintiff's attorney said in a press release, "From the time I took the Coca-Cola driver's testimony and obtained the company's inadequate cell phone driving policy, I knew we had a corporate giant with a huge safety problem on our hands."  Furthermore, he said, "I hope the verdict sends a message to corporate America that you can't have employees on a cell phone and endanger the motoring public."The lesson is simple: plaintiffs are watching and waiting to sue employers whenever employees crash due to a cell phone related distractions.
  2. A written cell phone use policy is not enough:  The plaintiff successfully argued that Coca-Cola’s cell phone policy for its delivery drivers was “vague and ambiguous” and it wasn't enforced in any meaningful way. Simply stated, if written policies are not enforced, then written policies will not minimize employer risk and liability.
  3. Policy enforcement is critical: Case law in the US clearly shows that employers should expect to be held accountable for damages that occur when employees drive distracted. Therefore, to truly reduce risk in the eyes of a jury, a company should consider utilizing technology best practices to actively or passively encourage safe and legal use of mobile devices while employees are driving.

As we close out 2012 and head into 2013, the year ahead promises mobile devices than ever in the hands of employee drivers.

Whether employees use the devices in a safe and legal manner while driving is entirely up to the employer. Fleet operators who stand by and do nothing will be sued and vicariously implicated by juries when the inevitable crashes occur. Fleets who adopt policies, conduct training and utilize best practices to encourage compliance will save lives and dramatically reduce risk and liability.

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