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Please Silence your Cell Phone Until After Work

Recently, in our travels to clubs we have noticed a common topic of conversation that managers can’t seem to wrap their heads around: the fact that employee cell phone usage is a major distraction, and what to do about it.

According to the Pew Research Center, over 95% of Americans now own a cell phone of some kind or another; which means that your chances of hiring an employee who does not use a cell phone is about as likely as hiring a Mensa member, or in other words highly unlikely. So, what does a manager do to ensure employee engagement and minimize distractions caused by cell phone usage?

We asked our fellow club managers about cell phone policies, and we came up with a few suggestions of how to handle cell phone usage as well:

Setting Expectations: It is common courtesy to prohibit cell phone use during training sessions, meetings and when interacting with club members, but instances outside of these often times fall into a gray area that must be clearly defined for employees. Managers are finding it necessary to revisit their cell phone policy and update with clear rules for when cell phones may be accessed (ie: during breaks), the frequency and length of phone calls, and appropriate usage (ie: short phone conversations or occasional texting is ok; listening to music or playing games is not).

Lead by Example and Enforce Policies: Employees turn to their managers not only for direct guidance, but also indirect guidance. This is where leading by example comes into play. If a manager sets a cell phone policy that they don’t abide by or enforce, employees will have a very difficult time taking that policy seriously. Be a stellar role model and your employees will follow suit.

Include Cell Phone Policy in Employee Onboarding Paperwork: When employees join your staff they are often required to state that they understand policies regarding dress code, behavior, and acceptable use of employee resources. This is an ideal time to require them to state that they understand and will abide by an employee cell phone usage policy. Spell out your expectations clearly, and what disciplinary action will be taken if these policies are violated.

Lockers: Some clubs require their employees to store all their personal belongings; including cell phones in lockers that are accessed at the beginning and end of work shifts. While a bit strict, this practice ensures that employees are completely engaged for the entirety of their shift. This sort of policy seems most effective for those who constantly are interacting with club members; such as wait staff, or are required to be very focused on the task at hand; such as kitchen staff.

As managers, we need to accept that cell phones are here to stay and that our employees will likely always have one on their person. Generally, it is better to establish, clear and enforceable policies than to ban the devices completely.


Whitney Reid Pennell, president of the RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services) is a celebrated management consultant, educator and speaker. RCS, the creators of the Food and Beverage Boot Camp™, specialize in operations consulting, strategic planning, food and beverage management, and training programs.

For more information, phone (623) 322-0773; or visit the RCS website at

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Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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