UCF updates its employee cellphone policy
Cellphones increasingly tether employees to workplace
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 17:05
Once upon a time, work stayed at the office. Today, for better or worse, the office can stay with you.
Syncing your email to your cellphone is handy to keep track of how many “likes” your new profile picture garnered, but it also makes it more difficult to use the “I didn’t get that email” excuse.
Because of the increased use of cellphones in the workplace, UCF instituted a cellphone policy into its payroll services in 2008 because, as Payroll Manager for UCF Human Resources Isha Guerrero-Londeree said, “employees have had cellphones for many years, and they have helped make employees more responsive to the needs of the university and those it serves, whether employees are in or away from their offices.”
According to the policy, if a UCF employer needs to be able to contact the employee at all times, or if the employer requires the employee be available to speak with customers when they are away from the office, the employee can fill out a cellphone allowance request form, which must be authorized by the president, vice presidents, vice provosts, deans or their designees in order to be compensated.The policy was updated in April of this year when the allowances became nontaxable.
But who defines a “need” to contact? And when does an employee have the right to expect pay for what an employer may call voluntary work?
Samuel Salazar, a senior Aerospace and mechanical engineering student at UCF, knows all too well the magnetic pull of a new email notification. As an employee of the Activity and Service Fee business office who relies heavily on email for work, Salazar finds himself instinctively checking his inbox several times a day.
“Your boss expects you to keep up with your email,” Salazar said.
Whether it is at the movie theater, out with friends or even while driving, Salazar finds himself reading emails and replying.
“It creates a dependency on email and cellphones,” he said.
Jerry Archambault, a technology product manager at UCF, refuses to sync his email to his phone.
“I don’t desire it," Archambault said. "I get a lot of work emails because I do a lot of departmental ordering.”
He often finds his inbox flooded with messages and doesn’t need extra on his cellphone, Archambault said.
“There’s no excuse to not do something, you can’t just relax,” said Jorge Duran, a senior majoring in Aerospace Engineering at UCF and who works in Technology Commons.
He finds himself checking his email every two or three hours and has had his work email synced to his phone for two years. Despite the intrusions, Duran can see the upside to constant accessibility.
“I think it’s more convenient,” Duran said. “You never show up without knowing what is going on”.
Duran pointed out that on-the-button communication can lead to last-minute cancellations, “but I haven’t seen it being taken advantage of too much.”
“It helps when something goes wrong at work and I’m the only one who can fix it,” Salazar said. “Or if there is something wrong with my time sheet and checking my email means I get paid.”
Salazar also highlighted the convenience of being able to check his work email anywhere, but had a few suggestions.
“I think to better the service, maybe [UCF] could email at only certain times of the day when it comes to general email,” Salazar said.
If it’s not something immediately pressing, Salazar said, he wishes there was an option to receive the other emails after a certain time of the day.
You have the option as a cellphone user to turn off your email syncing, Salazar said. “That is what this issue boils down to: How much is the employee and employer willing to help to make each others’ lives more efficient?”
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 defines a workday as “the period between the time on any particular day when such employee commences his/her ‘principal activity’ and the time on that day at which he/she ceases such principal activity or activities.” In 2012, the definition of a “workday” is growing more and more permeable. UCF could make a more efficient use of employee time by tailoring work schedules to better fit the reality of how people work now, Salazar said, especially students who have less flexibility because of classes.
“They can tailor it even more," Salazar said. "They should be able to work on their own time and clock in those hours.”
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember there are people beyond the inbox, Salazar said.
“I feel like we have disconnected ourselves from the human side to connect," Salazar said. "We forget that people have a life too. They have families, projects – it is very easy to just demand.”