When is it okay for dental professionals to use their cell phone at work?

Technology is certainly changing the way we work – but it’s not necessarily always for the better. Everywhere you look today, people are glued to their smartphones – snapping selfies, texting friends, even catching Pokemon!

There’s one question around smartphone usage that keeps popping up around the dental industry: should employees be allowed to use their cell phones at work?

The Problem with Smartphones at the Dental Office

There are a number of issues to consider when determining a cell phone policy for your place of employment:

1. Cell phones are distracting.

As technology continues to evolve and the smartphone experience becomes increasingly personalized, the line between personal and professional usage is only going to continue to blur. Smartphone addiction is real, and if not managed properly, it will suck away employee time and concentration.

2. Cell phones pose a risk to patient (and employee) privacy.

Smartphones today have many uses, including the ability to take photos, shoot video, or record voice conversations. All of these options threaten the privacy of your dental office.

3. Your employees are getting paid to do a job.

You wouldn’t let it go unnoticed if your team was just standing around the reception desk socializing, so why should it be okay for them to use work hours to socialize on a handheld device?

Tips for Implementing a Cell Phone Policy

For many, turning a blind eye to employee cell phone usage is no longer an option. The reality is, monitoring personal versus professional use of smartphones in the office is an increasingly difficult task.

This is especially true in an era when patients request appointment confirmations or reminders via text message. But what do you do about the receptionist who tucks her phone in the drawer next to where she sits? As a dentist, you’re busy working on production; you have no idea how often the device is being used, or what it is being used for.

Consider the following tactics for managing employee smartphone use:

1. Enforce a rule requiring smartphones to remain tucked away with employee personal belongings.

Remind employees their smartphones are for personal use, and therefore should be stored with other personal items. This means employees must leave their smartphones in the car, or in the lunchroom, where it cannot be used unless they are on break.

2. Have the office manager collect smartphones at the start of each shift.

If you really want to draw a clear line, you may want to assign an office manager the task of collecting staff smartphones in a large glass bowl in your office, from which employees can retrieve their devices at lunch or at the end of the day.

3. Create a standard system for professional use of smartphones.

When your team is attached to their smartphones anyway, it may be difficult to justify the cost of paying a software company to send patient texts. Instead of fighting them on it, request that smartphones be used strictly for professional reasons (such as patient text reminders) within working hours. If employees reject the idea, suggesting their phone is for personal use, you can respond by saying, “Exactly, so put it away!”


Do you have any ideas to add? How do you manage smartphone usage in the dental office? Share in the comments below!