Did you know that cell phones and texting are the #1 productivity killer in the average workplace? Not only that, but nearly one quarter of employees say they spend at least one hour a day tending to personal calls, emails, and texts during work hours?
For techs, these numbers might be low. It’s not exactly controversial to suggest that cell phones are a productivity killer in repair shops across the US. And while shop managers might be tempted to implement a blanket “no cell phone” policy, the likelihood of enforcing this type of policy is low.
So, instead of banning phones in the repair bay, here are some ideas managers and foremen can use to help techs put down the phone and pick up the wrench.
Talk To Techs About The High Cost of Phone Calls
Technicians can often be convinced to put the phone aside after reviewing some simple math. Let’s assume that a tech wastes 5 minutes of time every hour on talking on the phone or texting. This might be a high estimate for some techs, and it might be low.
Now, 5 minutes per hour works out to 200 minutes of wasted time per week…that’s almost 3.5 hours. If a tech is working off book rates, this fact probably has their attention. Three more hours of time each week could put thousands of dollars in income in their pocket on an annual basis.
If a tech is working at a fixed rate – or if they aren’t motivated by the realization that they can find an ‘extra’ three hours a week – it’s important to talk about the 3 hours in terms of shop expenses. If a shop has three techs wasting a combined 10 hours a week, that’s hundreds of dollars a month flying out the window. That money could be used to hire a shop helper, buy all the techs Gatorade and coffee, increase advertising, etc.
Give Techs Efficiency Metrics
The benefits of giving technicians a weekly report about their efficiency are numerous:
- Techs aren’t always aware of their efficiency rating. By sharing that metric with them – preferably alongside some other metrics like their rolling weekly average and their best efficiency rating ever – techs can learn to improve their performance.
- Efficiency metrics can be used to motivate techs. Bonuses can be given, tool expenses can be reimbursed, and a ‘leaderboard’ can be used to encourage some friendly competition.
- Techs who consistently underachieve in efficiency may be more open to coaching and mentoring.
NOTE: Efficiency in this context is the number of labor hours billed divided by the number of hours actually worked.
Whether training a brand new employee or talking to a seasoned tech, cell phone usage rules should be discussed periodically. Some suggested rules:
- Techs – all employees, in fact – should feel free to answer their phones in situations when there’s a family emergency, a child calling, and so on.
- Non-urgent conversations, personal calls, etc., should not be conducted during business hours. The tech should either call back during a break or after work.
- If a tech needs to answer the phone for some special reason, they are expected to inform their supervisor beforehand.
- If a tech is on their phone during work hours, they should know that their manager is going to ask them about it.
In addition to this face-to-face discussion, an official written cell phone policy is a good idea. The policy should state expectations and outline disciplinary actions. The policy can be simple:
Technicians are not to use personal phones in the shop or during normal work hours, except in case of emergency or special approval from management. Technicians who don’t follow this policy will be written up. Repeated infractions may result in termination.
Give Techs Tricks To Avoid Wasting Time
Last but not least, give techs some strategies for ignoring calls and texts that aren’t important:
- One of the simplest, easiest ways for techs to limit cell phone use is to assign a unique ringtone to calls from a spouse or child. That way, the tech doesn’t have to look at the phone to determine if it’s a call they should answer.
- Many phones have a ‘do not disturb’ mode that will silence the ringer and text message alerts unless they’re from an important person.
- Encourage techs to put their phone in a drawer, which keeps them from wasting time constantly checking for new messages.
- Encourage techs to tell their friends and family that they’re not allowed to text or talk during work hours. This can make it easier for them to ignore messages and calls they might feel pressure to otherwise respond to.
- A clever app called ‘Checky‘ can be used to measure the number of times a tech looks at their phone each day. The entire shop can use the app to see just how ‘addicted’ they are to their phones and hopefully limit their use.
Finally, Leaders Have To Lead
Workers using personal phones during work hours is a problem in every industry. Workers aren’t always aware of the amount of time they waste on phones. To solve this problem, make sure all workers know that limiting phone use is an expectation. Also, give them tools and metrics to measure and limit the time they’re wasting. Finally, shop managers and other staff must follow the same rules.
If the shop owner or manager is constantly on his or her phone taking personal calls – or texting – it’s hard to expect techs to follow the rules. Leaders must always set the right example.