Cell phones and front-line staff: What can be done?

Home Affairs Cell Phone screenshot

Home Affairs Cell Phone screenshot

‘Phone ban at Home Affairs?’

This was a recent headline in the Witness, our local newspaper.

Now, that question mark offended me.

These are front-office staff serving customers (or they might be if they were not on their phones). Cellphones are banned in most organisations for front-line staff, factory workers and others — some for safety reasons and some for the sake of service. There should be no question about it. But, the debate about whether to let them use their cell phones has gone all the way to Parliament.

The excuse: what about family emergencies? Well, their families will find a way just as any other family does whose relative is at work without a cellphone.

Now, according to new reports, the general manager of the Public Servants Association of South Africa, Ivan Fredericks, says that ‘reckless statements’ by the parliamentary portfolio committee, presumably about the abuse of cellphones by public servants, ‘expose public servants to undue public abuse’.

I understand Frederick’s desire to protect his members, but let’s have a reality check here. It’s not ‘reckless statements’ that annoy the public, but what the public sees in front of them when they are desperate for service. To be fair, he also says there are measures already in place to address problems where warranted.

Which raises the real problem for every organisation. Our policies and statements are meaningless if we fail to follow through and deal with issues as they arise.

Do you have a problem with cellphones or other staff requests? What is necessary for your organisation and the position involved? Be clear about why it matters, explain to staff, then act.

It’s not complicated, but Simply Communicate can help if you need it. Comment below, or contact us via the contact page here


Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people and HR & people-management consulting.

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