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Cellular Phones, you, and your employer.

By WeThree in Technology
Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 11:38:31 AM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

I'm sure a large percentage of our loyal k5 readership is employed in a field which may require them to keep in touch with their coworkers on a constant basis. This is a poll, and a invitation for discussion about cellular phones, and related policies at your place of work.

Yep, the 'ol ball and chain. The cellphone. Your boss just stuck you with one. Well, thats ok, you'd probably have one anyway right? Maybe you already do? Theres the rub.

How does your company handle the bill? Do you pay it up front and get reimbursed? Do they handle the whole thing? Do you have to pay for personal calls? Do they pay you for work related calls on your personal phone?

In looking for answers on this, I've found nothing that even resembles a universally accepted policy for this sort of thing. So I'd like to hear your experiences. Please relate them in the comments, and vote in the poll to your right, if applicable. Details on the procedures at your company, and any other thoughts are welcome.


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Are you responsible for personal calls on your company cellphone?
o Not at all, they handle the bill, no questions asked. 23%
o Yes, but only if I go over my "free" minutes. 6%
o Yes, I pay a flat rate for ALL personal calls, over the minutes or not. 1%
o I carry two phones, one for personal use, and one for work related use. 5%
o I have a personal cellphone, my employer reimburses me for work related calls. 6%
o I never use my work cellphone for personal calls. 0%
o I never use my personal cellphone for work calls. 16%
o I don't have a cellphone. 39%

Votes: 127
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by WeThree

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Cellular Phones, you, and your employer. | 27 comments (25 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
It's expected (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by onyxruby on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 02:14:00 AM EST

It's my experience that having a cell phone, and being able to be reached on it at almost anytime is expected with the job. I almost look at this as part of the price of doing what I love to do. In my last position I had a personal cell, job cell, and a pager. I would certainly use the work cell first, but when the work cell died, my personal cell was ringing 30 seconds later.

I know this is fairly common in law enforcement, medical, fire, plumbing and lineman work. While I'm not fond of the fact that I'm expected to do this, I'm not going to fret over this either. Calling plans are coming down in price, and it's too much trouble to try and do the paperwork to get reimbursed.

In short, the employer should provide the cell/pager, and the computer tech should supply a personal when (not if) the business fails. It just like any other tool to do your job.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

Use your personal phone (3.00 / 1) (#2)
by adamsc on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 02:14:09 AM EST

Among other things, I don't often use my phone for work calls and am thus very rarely over my package minutes each month. The distinction is that since the phone is mine, I get more control over who can call or when it's turned on. Some companies treat anyone with a company cellphone as if they're on call 24/7...

cellphone (4.00 / 1) (#4)
by UrLord on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 03:55:31 AM EST

I just got a personal cellphone, and I have NOT given my employer, or fellow employees the number. I do not want them using my minutes for something work related. If I want to use my minutes for something work related I will call them from my cellphone. Eventually they will probably want the number and Ill have to figure out how to get some money out of them ;)

We can't change society in a day, we have to change ourselves first from the inside out.

Watch out (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by illustir on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 12:05:12 PM EST

Be sure to disable the number forwarding function of your cell phone. If you don't their caller-ID will report your number to them at the first call you make.

One thing I'll teach the wereld, willens nillens:
There is tremendous poetry in killings.
     --Risjaar, Ten Oorlog III

[ Parent ]
caller ID (none / 0) (#13)
by UrLord on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:57:07 PM EST

The caller ID doesnt show the number on the phone in the office that I call. If I called the receptionist it may be seen, but she's a friend and wouldnt give it out. But thanks, that is something to keep in mind ;)

We can't change society in a day, we have to change ourselves first from the inside out.
[ Parent ]

Just a tool (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by yojimbo-san on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:33:15 AM EST

In my previous position, I used a personal phone, and the company knew (and used) the number - but they made no contribution to the bills, even as expenses. I treated it the same as my home phone - I'd try not to initiate calls, but if that was what was required to do my job better, then I'd use it.

Perhaps when you realise that the choice is either to make a call (and pay for it yourself) or to go travel into the office to deal with the problem (spending your personal time on travel, even if you're monetarily recompensed later) than it gets into perspective.

Now I have a fully paid work phone, and I find myself using it a lot more than I ever used my personal phone :-)

Quick wafting zephyrs vex bold Jim
Phone standards (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 08:04:07 AM EST

Strikes me that the best way to handle this is to compensate the employee a "more than reasonable" amount per month (the remainder of which does not roll over into the next month), along with paying the upfront costs of the phone. If someone goes crazy with personal calls, fine, they pay the remainder. If work-related calls hit a spike, then one can give the beancounters a special note or invoice.

It would be very good if there was a fairly standard way of handling this. All these little infrastructure things take away time and energy.

$30 a month (2.50 / 2) (#8)
by mpenza on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 10:50:18 AM EST

I have a personal cellphone and occasionally use it for work related calls. But what my employer does it pays me $30 a month for the cellphone. If I go over my free minutes because of work related calls (which happens when I'm travelling) or have roaming fees, I just expense it.

Our implementation (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by wib on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 10:52:46 AM EST

My company issues phones to those that need them for 'field' work be they sales or technical. Until 18 months ago the company would pay all bills and for the purposes of the tax man the value of personal calls was always 200 per annum ( < 300 USD ). A very simple system but not really cost effective for the company.

This scheme was replaced with direct billing to a corporate credit card, any personal calls needed to be marked and removed from the credit charge claim back. Since the corporate credit cards were liable to the holder the owner paid for their own calls. An advantage to this scheme was that we could take advantage of call discounts (no free minutes) for the normal business rates, 20% i think. The disadvantage was more paper work but then you either got your assistant to do it or it took 5-10 mins with a marker pen. And that you actually had to pay for all your personal calls :(.

-- McDonalds? if i want some anti-biotics i'll go see my doctor.
Package Minutes Rock. (none / 0) (#11)
by HypoLuxa on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 03:48:09 PM EST

We bought mobile phones for our entire group, and we got a large amount of package minutes. In addition, we had our provider combine it all into one plan, which allows us to pool our minutes and gives our boss only one invoice to sign.

Here, we're compensated for the full cost, but we are supposed to pay for personal calls if we go over our package minutes. Since we have a huge pool of minutes, we never get close to it. Many of us make personal calls with our mobiles, and no one really cares. I think this relaxed view is to somewhat compensate us for having to carry a mobile all the time. They realize that it is a burden that is more than financial, so they cut us some slack with it.

BTW - the Nextel 2-way radio feature is an absolute godsend with a staff of about 15 spread out over three buildings. Plus, we get to use cool 70's era CB slang!

I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen

lax as long as it's not abused (none / 0) (#12)
by jhagler on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:47:04 PM EST

Over my past couple of jobs, I have found that most companies operate under the same philosophy; it's more cost effective to absorb a few personal calls than to hire soneone to check every number dialed.

Basically as long as we don't go insane on the personal calls no one says anything. My company buys 600 minute plans for everyone and as long as we fall within the number of minutes all is good. Anyone who continually exceeds their number of minutes better be doing it for business reasons, at which time their plan minutes will be increased. To me that just makes sense, you can't ask someone to put in 12 hour days then get upset when they call their SO to let them know not to hold dinner.

One person was let go from one of my previous jobs after racking up $1000+ worth of personal calls one month. People like this are the exception not the rule though and are typically on their way out as it is. (In case you were wondering the cost of the personal was deducted from his last paycheck).

Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there. - RAH
I use personal cell for everything (none / 0) (#14)
by KindBud on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:37:58 PM EST

My company supplied me with an alpha pager, one of those Motorola things with the chiclet keyboard. Ugh. Hated it. Hated to carry it, hated to use it. I gave it back to them, told them I wasn't going to carry around this bulky gadget, in addition to the passcard for the building and my own Timeport PCS phone.

I use the cell for anything BUT personal matters. I give the cell number to websites, vendors, magazines, banks, even credit cards - anyone that wants a phone number from me. Personal calls come to my land line. I guard that number as a closely held state secret. :) This way, anything coming to my cell phone is ignorable, except for when it's my turn to be on-call. Anyone calling my land line is probably someone I want to talk to, family or friends, rather than some whiner from work or a telemarketer.

Hey, the first incoming minute is always free, and text messages are also free, so why carry around a second gizmo, when the one I already have and would be paying for anyway, does it all, at no additional cost to me or the company?

They don't have to reimburse me for something I would have paid for anyway. And I don't have to carry around that damnable Motorola pager. Don't you hate having to carry around more than one communications device?

just roll a fatty

There's another angle as well... (none / 0) (#15)
by jtown@punk.net on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:55:27 PM EST

...some of us have eschewed land lines altogether. When I moved last year (oops...year before last), the phone company failed to move my phone line. After a week of excuses, I gave up on them and switched to using a cell phone. Since I'm not one of the lucky few living in an area with true flat-rate cell phone service, it means I've had to accept the fact that every incoming and outgoing call goes against my air time whether the call was welcome or not. Since my cell phone is my only phone, I give out that number as my home phone. It's on the company phone list, on file with my bank, used with online orders, etc.

Because I use my cell phone like this, I have to accept the fact that I'm going to occasionally receive work related calls outside of normal office hours. Fortunately, it's _very_ rare for this to happen so it isn't a big issue for me but I'd be hard-pressed to convince my company that they should reimburse me for my lost air time since it was _my_ choice to go 100% wireless. Every company occasionally has need to contact employees at home from time to time, some more often than others.

During the day, I (and anyone else) can grab one of the phones provided by the office if we go out on a work-related errand. If I were expecting to need a cell phone for a work-related event outside of normal hours, I'd take a work phone with me. If I were to need a cell phone 24/7 for work, I would expect them to provide one separate from my own phone and I would carry both of them and use them accordingly. Mine for personal calls and theirs for business. People here who feel they need a work phone 24/7 get one. Phones are cheap and they all dip into the same pool of minutes. However, the bills for those work phones _are_ reviewed and there would be a one-on-one meeting if it appeared anyone was abusing their privs.

The two-phone deal may sound anal but mixing business and personal rubs me the wrong way. It can also be a PITA for the business if one of their employees takes advantage of the "free" phone. "The company has a pool of 10,000 minutes. They'll never notice if I use the phone 3 hours a day." Likewise, a person graciously using their personal phone for business calls may forget that a thousand minutes runs out fast when you're talking shop. Then how do you decide how much of the overflow was business related?

Free as a bird now... (none / 0) (#16)
by mahlen on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 08:16:55 PM EST

My company has cell phones for everyone with a big pool of minutes, allocating something like 750 minutes a month per person, which i use far less than. The cell is my main phone at work (mainly because we don't have much in the way of walls, so I like to walk someplace else so as not to disturb my coworkers), but I also use the phone in my daily life. The notion that these were not to be used for personal calls has never come up; in fact, personal calls are about all i use it for. I can't recall the last time someone from work called me on it (of course, we aren't a live system yet, either). Overall, just a job perk; our company was founded by gadget freaks.


Tell a man that there are 300 billion stars in the universe, and he'll believe
you.... Tell him that a bench has wet paint upon it and he'll have to touch
it to be sure.

In my little corner of the world... (none / 0) (#17)
by Jordan Block on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 09:37:01 PM EST

Where I work, everyone in the IT dept has a personal cell, that is occasionlly used for business. We all just pay our own bills, from the lowliest coder, to the CEO of the company.

No one has any problems with this, it's viewed as just a part of the job.

If I had to have some 3 hour conversation or something that would obliterate my airtime, I would most v=certainly bill the company for it, but other than that, I don't really care.

Mobile Phones Are An Abomination! (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by PenguinWrangler on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 07:00:37 AM EST

I refuse to have a mobile phone. What I actually want is a small device I can carry around in my bag which prevents any mobile phone within a 100 feet radius from working, and thus free me from the constant jabbering of people on the train shouting "I'M ON THE TRAIN!"
When a mobile phone goes off in the cinema, or the theatre, or a library, the owner of the phone should be taken to a small room where their mobile will be smashed to bits in front of them, and then barred from the establishment for life.
I hate mobile phones. I hate the people who cannot use them wisely. I take great satisfaction in the thought that the idiot who has spent the last hour mouthing inanities to his phone has a very good chance of contracting brain cancer and dying a horrible death. Can't come soon enough if you ask me.
I refuse to have a mobile. I shall never own a mobile. I prefer to be incommunicado while I'm out and about, thank you very much!
Mobiles are probably the most irritating things ever developed.
"Information wants to be paid"
Hmmm (none / 0) (#22)
by PrettyBoyTim on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 01:55:09 PM EST

"Mobiles are probably the most irritating things ever developed."

Apart from those who continually complain about them...

The reason people always say "I'm on the train" when using mobiles on trains is because if someone rings you up they ALWAYS SEEM TO ASK WHERE YOU ARE.

My normal response is something like "I'm about five minutes from Clapham Junction"...

[ Parent ]
Mmmm Hmmmm (none / 0) (#27)
by minusp on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 01:36:17 PM EST

I usally just say "On the phone talking to you..."
Remember, regime change begins at home.
[ Parent ]
A jammer! (none / 0) (#23)
by mingTmerciless on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 06:17:18 PM EST

I'd pay a couple hundred bucks for a jamming device, if it were small and inconspicuous enough.

...all I'd need was something that forced nearby in-progress calls to disconnect. I wouldn't need to stop incoming or outgoing calls, and I wouldn't need to create a "zone of silence" around me. I just want to be able to reset an in-progress call, or else spit out so much static that they have to hang up -- regardless of the cell technology they're using.

Ideally, without irradiating myself or bystanders.

Of course, the FCC would probably have *real* problems with this sort of device....

[ Parent ]

They do... (none / 0) (#26)
by LocalH on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 07:38:01 AM EST

...TIME magazine had an article about a device just like this out of Israel. The latest issue has a little blurb that says that the FCC will fine users of these devices $11,000.

Original story: Cell-Phone Zapper
The follow up: Hooked Again and is actually a blurb at the end of the story.

[ Parent ]
where reality and theory collide (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by el_guapo on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 08:39:19 AM EST

I have a business cell phone AND a 2 way pager. A lot of folks outside our group question this, but it really is necessary. Lame-ass scenario alert: I'm down the hall, wife calls cell phone, and I start chatting with her. Then BLAM - a major netwrok issue comes up (say an OC3 appears to go down) - our NOC calls my office and gets voicemail, so they call my cell and get: voicemail. Now they 911 page me with a brief description : "Chris, get off your ass an OC3 is down" I can reply with a canned pager response "I'm on the way" while I tell the wife-unit I've gotta run. Add this capability to the fact that the things cost my employer very little and the added functionality is very worthwhile. Besides that, I like toys ;-) PS - oh yea - I have to expense the cell phone (pay with corporate card and submit an expense report) but my employer pays for the 2way pager outright
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
If they want you to have one, they should provide. (none / 0) (#20)
by bscanl on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 10:06:11 AM EST

You Americans are only getting to grips with mobiles now. You backwards people... :)

I remember reading on /. a year and half ago about mobile phones, and somebody posting that mobiles were _EVERYWHERE_ in Japan. Same now in Europe. 5 people in my house. 5 mobiles. My parents really don't need them, but everybody has them, so hey. We have well over 2 million mobiles in Ireland, in a population of 4 million. It'll probably hit 3 million by the end of the year. Madness.

Anyway, it's simple. If you need a mobile for work, your employer should pay for it. If they do pay for it, and expect you to have it turned on outside of working hours, you should expect they pay for your personal calls (without being unreasonable and clocking up a huge bill). If they expect you to react to something outside of your ocre working hours, you're effectively working on-call, and you should be compensated. If you're working somewhere and need tools to do a job, your employer should provide the tools. Else, you are a contractor, no?

I work for an Irish Mobile Network, so obviously I get everything free. I've spent hours on the phone to the U.K. and Europe in the course my my job, so I expect a few hours on the phone to my friends per month wouldn't make the people in finance blink.

They pay for the service, I pay for the phone (none / 0) (#21)
by dj@ on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 12:47:46 PM EST

If I were to get a phone, which I have been delaying, prolonging, and avoiding as much as is humanly possible, they will pay for all the service, but I have to buy the phone. Lojack for humans, I tell 'ya.

My mobile number stays personal (none / 0) (#24)
by dyskordus on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:35:05 PM EST

My employer doesn't get my cell number. The last thing I want is my boss/co-workers calling me with a bunch of work related questions while I am away from the office.

The one time I was asked for my mobile number, I politely refused and have not been asked since. Unless I am paid for time I spend talking on the phone out of the office (I am hourly, thank Cthulu), my cell number will stay private.

"Reality is less than television."-Brian Oblivion.

The way a bank did it. (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by telosphilos on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:51:10 PM EST

When I worked for the bank as a Staff Accountant, part of my job was to pay the bills. We did our wireless phone bills in a variety of different ways. None of them really seem all that great.

  • The company provided a cell phone and coverage on a corporate account. Each individual has a certain ammount of minutes. The company pays the bill outright and submits copies of the individual charges to the bank officers that use the phones. The officer then reimburses the bank. When the bill would seem a little too large one of the head honchos would review it and ask the individuals that seem to have large charges about it. The original bill is then filed with the rest of the paid bills under the vendor's name.
  • In the case of one department head, the bank just flat out paid half his bill for him, no questions asked. I wish I knew how he got that deal, it was an expensive plan.
  • My much preffered way was simply paying the employee for the calls made as listed on the individual's expence reimbursement form. The reimbursement form had to be reviewed by another officer, but otherwise it was no big deal and the charges where paid.
  • Now, having not been one of the people that had a cell phone as I was a simple peon, I don't know about the issues of wether or not you want your work to call you. At the bank that was exceedingly rare outside of some one down in imaging f*cking up majorly. NOT FUN. Those calls happened a lot less after the bastard that was doing it left. *shrug*

    -- Peace and quiet is a sleeping baby.
    Cellular Phones, you, and your employer. | 27 comments (25 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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