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Using Employee-Owned Technology in the Workplace? 1080

Posted by Cliff
from the bucking-the-not-so-well-thought-out-policies dept.
digitalvengeance asks: "As of Monday, my company is initiating a 'no cell phone' policy at all of our offices, including the IT department, where I work. I consider my cellular phone a necessity both in my personal and work lives. I have a number of servers and custom applications configured to notify me by text message, in the event of a problem. I am considering refusing to take work calls or text messages on my personal cell phone, and even quitting in protest of the new policy. How have other Slashdot readers dealt with policies regarding use of employee-owned technology at work? Any suggestions as to how I can get this policy overturned without looking like someone who wants to spend my working time on my cell rather than coding?"
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Using Employee-Owned Technology in the Workplace?

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  • First step (Score:5, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:30PM (#8592216) Homepage
    Any suggestions as to how I can get this policy overturned without looking like someone who wants to spend my working time on my cell rather than coding?

    ...have you explained the importance of your cell phone to your boss or HR person? Have you asked for an exception, as yours is pretty clearly an exceptional case?

    If they stonewall and ignore your concerns, then by all means, raise a stink. In the interests of civility, job security, and conservation of energy, though, you may want to try the easy way first. Don't break out the elephant gun before you've tried the flyswatter...

    • Re:First step (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:34PM (#8592277) Homepage
      Throw it back at 'em. Server's down? Who knew!
      • Nobody knows (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @07:20PM (#8593580) Homepage Journal
        This is obviously from the same source as the ban on web surfing you see in some companies. They don't trust the employees not to use company time and resources for personal purposes. So they ban things that can be used for personal purposes. And of course, in the process they stymie employees attempts to make themselves more productive.

        I don't see what you can possibly do in this situation, short of quitting. If they don't trust their own employees, then they're not going to be receptive to employee feedback. If you dissent politely, they'll smile and ignore you. If you dissent rudely, you'll just reinforce their patronizing attitude.

        And playing work-to-rule games ("I didn't know the server was down because my cell was switched off, as per policy") isn't going to help either. It's just another way of communicating something the bosses don't want to hear, except that it also makes them look stupid. Which is not likely to make them receptive.

        Sometimes management falls into the mode of treating employees like spoiled children -- people who can't be communicated with, only bullied into a semblance of correct behavior. If you can figure out a way to change that attitude, you've really got something (like a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize!). If you can't, there's not a lot you can do.

    • Re:First step (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frailty (676368) <versionq05@covad.TEAnet minus caffeine> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:40PM (#8592364) Journal
      I have to back Amaerican AC in Paris on this one. I use my own PDA at work, and the onsite techs were matter of fact in that they would install the software, but the company was not responsible for supporting the hardware, etc. No Problem. Example 2: Had a personal Cell phone and a company pager (pagers are lame outdated, and totally cost inefficient. Got rid of the Cellphone (very liberating really) everyone should try it for a short time. Probelm: No one liked paging me, and used my cell phone all the time. So I told the boss hey, you pay for the cell phone, and then you, the team, business partners, etc. can contact me whenever you want. He thought about 2 seconds and said; make it happen. Sometimes if you have a good business justification, it is smooth sailing, if you are just whining because you think they are interfering with your "personal freedom" you might want to look at your definition of "viable employment".
      • by Stone316 (629009) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:27PM (#8592968) Journal
        Unfortunately cell phones still aren't as reliable as pagers.. There are many buildings I can't get a signal in and if I go into a basement of a building (where my Taekwon-Do school is for example)I can forget about getting a signal.

        They might not be cost effective but I feel much more comfortable having my critical alerts going to it.

      • Re:First step (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Dasein (6110) * <{tedc} {at} {codebig.com}> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @07:17PM (#8593546) Homepage Journal
        You know, on another post folks are all over me because I mentioned that being reachable all the time is energy draining.

        I happen to agree with you. I think we all ought to seriously consider the costs and benifits of cell phones. I went without for a while and found it liberating. For me, I like having one but having it be known that I usually don't have it on or with me.

        Funny, though. My wife and our kid's school always seem to be able to get through ;-)
        • Re:First step (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rw2 (17419) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @08:08PM (#8594000) Homepage
          I think we all ought to seriously consider the costs and benifits of cell phones. I went without for a while and found it liberating.

          Once I realized that, just like when I'm at home, I can use caller id to screen my calls I realized that *having* a cell phone was what I found liberating. I can go to my farm in the country and not have to worry about whether the servers have gone to hell because my contact point is one number, always. If I don't answer the voicemail takes a message and I can review that for urgency.

          First rule of owning a cell phone. If it rings, you don't have to answer...
          • Re:First step (Score:4, Insightful)

            by matfud (464184) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:49PM (#8594709) Homepage
            >First rule of owning a cell phone. If it rings, you don't have to answer...

            I really wish that more people would learn this very simple rule.

            However it is an ingraned habbit that was formed using landlines. I know of so many people who will get up to answer a phone even if they are busy (eating dinner for example) rather then let it ring for the 20 or 30 seconds most callers will wait. If its important people will call again or leave a message.

            matfud
    • Re:First step (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KingOfBLASH (620432) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:41PM (#8592382) Journal
      ...have you explained the importance of your cell phone to your boss or HR person? Have you asked for an exception, as yours is pretty clearly an exceptional case?...

      With all due respect to the original poster, I am not sure this is clearly an exceptional case. The servers, presumably, e-mail their notifications to a personal cell phone number @ some cellular company. Correct?

      Well, whereas if he requests a cell phone or pager or something else he can receive messages on from his boss, if he is ever run over by a bus or fired they can just pass the pager / phone / whatever onto another employee to take his place. If, on the other hand, they don't use a company owned device, someone who should not be getting access to information could presumably be getting access to information. (And assuming he's angry about being outsourced, he might do something the employer regrets).

      Now this does not mean the OP is a bad person who would do said things, it's that the bosses want to keep a tight hold of their stuff for various reasons. My advice for the OP is to explain politely to your boss why you need something to replace your cell phone, and how it benefits the company if you're ever run over by a bus. And, if they say no, and you really don't like it, quietly polish your resume and look for work elsewhere. If you don't find it, you won't have quit in the heat of the moment, and if you find a better position, no harm in covering your bases.

      • Re:First step (Score:4, Insightful)

        by epiphani (254981) <epiphani@dal. n e t> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:41PM (#8593150)
        Thats all fine and good, then you develop batbelt syndrome -- carrying a personal cell phone, a work cell phone, a work pager, and a PDA out to the bar is unforuntately NOT cool.

    • by Schwartzboy (653985) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:43PM (#8592410)
      No joke. I could post for pages and pages with antecdotal evidence, from my own experience and that of fellow geeks, that the quickest way to eliminate a policy or new set of particularly stupid regulations is to follow them to the letter. For instance:

      POINTY-HAIRED BOSS: Why didn't you know that Server X, Application Y, and Cubicle Drone Z were all hosed and not responding to requests?
      YOU: Well, sir, I get these notifications, see, and when I'm working in another part of the office or not sitting right at my desk, I know instantly if something goes wrong with anything that I'm responsible for and then I can fix it.
      PHB: But...that doesn't explain why you didn't know about XYZ!!
      YOU: Well, these alerts all come on my cell phone, you see, and since it's company policy that Cells Are Not Allowed...

      The dumber it is, the more religiously you should follow it, and make darned sure that all of your buddies fall in line with the company's new direction as well. I'm assuming, of course, that you've already presented your case to a supervisor or HR person or something, and that you're not a Super Executive VP of Something. If you're at that level in the organization, just say "no" and have your department behave differently from everyone else...apparently this works in the real world if you're high enough on the food chain.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:01PM (#8592670)
        man, I can see this backfiring...

        PHB: So if notifications come to you when you are at your desk then what are you doing away from your desk?

        PHB: you'll have to buy yourself a catheter and you are expected to bring your own lunch and eat at your desk from now on... I'm going off to type a memo about people remaining on duty at the desks at all times, no exceptions and still no cell phones.

      • by pinkfalcon (215531) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:13PM (#8592797)
        An example of this taken to extreme

        Oakland Harbour started to have an unusual high rate of accidents (thnakfully no one hurt, but big cargo boxes dropped from cranes tend to have financial implications). Management decides to implement the policy that if any accident happens while in violation of the safety rules, then the disciplinary action could include days off without pay or even termination.

        The dockworkers union decides to follow the safety rules strictly. All breaks were taken on the hour, no one worked any overtime, forklifts were not driven over 5mph, you get the idea.

        cargo gets backed up - ships are waiting out in the bay cause the cargo can't be unloaded at the same speed it was before, everyone getting angry etc (but no more accidents).

        Management locks out dockworkers union - the press calls it a strike, cargo is left rotting on ships, farmers can't send their crops to their customers, etc

        finally Pres Bush calls in the Taft act and breaks the lockout but without resolution 5 weeks before xmas so walmart (and others) can get their chinese made junk on the shelves in time (I'm over-dramatizing, but you get the idea).

        policy about accidents while in violation of safety code is still in place to this day.

      • Call your boss on his cell. Guaranteed he's still got it on him (or his boss does, or his boss' boss).

        Go high enough, and you'll find the exception. Then point out to whoever's complaining that "Gee, I guess you didn't get an exception, like so-and-so has." You know, BOFH-style :-)

      • PHB: But...that doesn't explain why you didn't know about XYZ!!
        YOU: Well, these alerts all come on my cell phone, you see, and since it's company policy that Cells Are Not Allowed...


        Continued:

        PHB: But you knew about the cell phone regulation. You've known about it for a week. And yet, you couldn't come up with some other way to notify yourself? Like maybe to your company email address, or to your company IM account?
        YOU: Yes, but I wanted to prove that the policy was foolish. So I let the server break and stay broken.
        PHB: Brilliant! In unrelated news, can I see your security pass? We are going to relaminate for you.
      • by 4of12 (97621) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:56PM (#8593312) Homepage Journal

        I'm assuming, of course, that you've already presented your case to a supervisor or HR person or something

        And here is where many enraged geeks make a big mistake.

        They become so upset at the Stupid Fscking Policy and explain in no uncertain terms just how stupid it is to

        • people everywhere
        • people in authority over them
        • people in authority that made the policy
        and this is compounding one mistake in policy by another mistake in proper feedback to human beings. Guess what, people are Unsympathetic if you refer to their decisions as shit.

        If you want a better chance for the policy to change, you'll get more chance of success if you don't go apoplectic. Instead, take about 100 deep breaths, sleep 2 two nights, count to 10000 and think about a much larger problem such as nuclear annihilation and how small your problem really is.

        Then, and only then, go into the office of someone who matters and explain calmly and respectfully how perhaps the new policy didn't fully take into account all of the benefits the company was getting as a result of the old policy and wasn't there someway an accomodation could be reached?

      • by jcoy42 (412359) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @07:02PM (#8593379) Homepage Journal
        the quickest way to eliminate a policy or new set of particularly stupid regulations is to follow them to the letter.

        Oh, I have a good story on this one.

        Engineer at IBM was told to start wearing a tie. Again and again. Finally passed as policy. So he got a tie. Not outrageous or anthing, just a plain dark tie. Waited by the elevator for the policy maker to show up & got in the elevator with him.

        Then, in the elevator, he blew his nose on it, and left it like that all day.

        The policy was dropped, and he was told he didn't have to wear a tie anymore.
    • by Stone316 (629009) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:47PM (#8592465) Journal
      Explain to them the importance your cell phone has in day to day operations. In the end its upto management to put a value on that service, if they don't think its necessary then don't do it. If something goes down they may change their tune.. Unfortunately they might have to learn the hard way.

      As a DBA I face the same type of thing every day. When setting up a server I ask for their tolerance of downtime and suggest solutions. If they aren't willing to 'pay' for those features then thats their call.

      Also, why were the cellphones banned? Is there sensitive work done onsite? Are they afraid of the new cellphones with built in cameras? Does it interfere with some electronics? There may be a valid reason behind the ban.

      As long as your ass is covered (ie, you explained the situation to managment) then whats the problem? Are alpha-numeric pagers banned as well? Why not pick up one of those? You can still get your alerts and friends can still contact you.

    • Re:First step (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Otter (3800) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:47PM (#8592469) Journal
      ...have you explained the importance of your cell phone to your boss or HR person? Have you asked for an exception, as yours is pretty clearly an exceptional case?

      If I understand the story -- you're responsible for the servers and have configured them to alert you on your personal phone. That's great, but I guarantee your HR department barely knows you have computers, let alone about your cell phone alerts.

      As the AC from Paris says, don't take this personally -- just ask whether you can keep your phone. Or better yet, whether the company will get you a pager or something so you don't generate resentment from coworkers who think you're above the rules. Certainly, don't just let the servers crash and stay down out of spite.

      (Actually, it was smart of you to ask before doing anything. It's almost smart to stop, think, ask, and think some more before heading off to demand a showdown -- I've learned always to ask my wife first, and listen when she tells me to make a request instead of reaching for the flamethrower.)

    • Re:First step (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:55PM (#8592572)
      Do it in writing.

      Write a short, concise and friendly memo stating the the impact of the policy on your work.

      Have the memo explicitely state the consequences of conforming to the new policy and that you will conform to the new policy unless you hear from them in writing (since you don't want to break policy based on verbal assurances). Phrase the consequences in terms of loss of revenues, increased costs, or litigation.

      Basically, you're putting them on notice that if the shit hits the fan, you have something in writing where they were made fully aware of the potential problems before it actually happened.

      Just make sure you don't sound like an asshole in the memo.

    • Steps 3-5 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Libertarian_Geek (691416) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:58PM (#8592617)
      I agree. I see so many posts saying something to the effect of: "Stop bringing it, they'll see how important it is when servers go down because nobody got the pages". Wow, what's happened to our work force? Here are a few ideas that might actually look like you give a shit. It sounds like we're stuck in a "Clerks" version of IT!
      1.> Have a little frigging back-bone, people. state the issue to your boss in an e-mail. Document it. Be sure to be detailed on the risks.
      2.> Contact HR explain the above.
      3.> If the above doesn't work (as American AC in Paris has also suggested the 1st two). Contact internal customers who have jobs running on the impacted systems. Explain the situation and the risks.
      4.> Be willing to help develop either a more defined policy (i.e. no private calls, no digital cameras) or accept an alternative (alpha-pager).
      5.> At the first issue of an outage because no-one got notified, bring this up. Don't wait for all hell to break loose.
      Following these steps with the right tone, enthusiasm, and tact, you'll at worst look like you actually care about your job and the company you work for. Unless maybe, you prefer to live on welfare, unemployment, and bitch about how the internet stock bubble saturated the job market with IT guys. Be a "stand-up geek" and do the right thing.
  • by Matey-O (518004) * <michaeljohnmiller@mSPAMsSPAMnSPAM.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:30PM (#8592219) Homepage Journal

    Have them pay for an alpha pager and move your alerts there. Really, quitting over the use of a device you've become addicted [wikipedia.org] to is not the smartest reason to terminate employment.

    • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:42PM (#8592395) Journal
      Have them pay for an alpha pager and move your alerts there.

      That would be my suggestion as well. Why should you pay for SMS on your personal cell phone (oh I know, you probably have a package plan, but technically you are still paying for it) for work? Do you own any stock in this company? If not, then why use your personal funds to help them?

      Everytime I ever mixed personal stuff (be it e-mail addresses, cell phone addresses, etc etc) with work it blew up in my face. You might think it's a good idea to bring your personal laptop in or use your cell phone but I'd ask for them to buy you one instead. It's just common sense -- as well as not paying for/putting wear and tear on your own gear for a company that you don't own and only work for.

      As far as the banning cell phones in the workplace that is a little fascist. I would personally have a problem with that. My company allows cell phones on vibrate (office environment) as long as they aren't abused for an excessive amount of personal calls. I guess I'm spoiled working for a smaller company without any PHB lording over me. Personally I don't answer mine in the office -- but I will check my voice mail and return important and/or emergency calls.

      Unfortunately as everybody else pointed out unless you can get the policy changed your only real option is to quit and find another job. Personally I'd swallow it and wait until you have another one lined up before quitting in this day and age.

  • by l810c (551591) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:31PM (#8592223)
    my company is initiating a 'no cell phone' policy
    I am considering refusing to take work calls or text messages on my personal cell phone

    Reminds me of the old cartoons where they talked the other guy into saying what they want.
    'no your not'
    'yes I am'
    'no your not'
    'yes I am'
    'yes your are'
    'no I'm not'

    and even quitting in protest of the new policy

    Now That's a bit drastic. Surely if there is a business need, they would allow exceptions.
    On second thought, just go ahead and quit. Stick your tongue out and say 'na-na-na-na-na-na' when you do.

  • ...or is it "you can't bring a cell phone to work"?

    You might be able to get a waiver for the former... the latter seems like a misguided attempt at a security policy, perhaps?
  • by garcia (6573) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:31PM (#8592228) Homepage
    First of all, when in Rome...

    Second, while I don't technically agree w/the policy I don't really see why you are complaining. You do as they say w/o too many questions. If you don't like the working conditions you find another place that is more towards your liking.

    I would normally go on to rant about how I personally dislike cell phones in public (nevermind the workplace) but it's irrelevant for this discussion. You do what the employer wants or you start sending out the resumes. A cell phone isn't exactly something required to sustain life.

    Just my .02,
    • by composer777 (175489) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:49PM (#8592487)
      and commodities don't have a right to complain. Commodities are supposed to happily participate in the market and flow to wherever there is demand. If I buy a car, it doesn't complain that I didn't pay enough for it, or that I'm relocating it to a different state. The same goes for workers, if one loses their job, no problem, just move to India, where there is apparently greater demand. My car wouldn't complain about having to go to India, so why should I? Why should it be any different when dealing with workers? They're just commodities, they have no rights.

      This is of course what market fundamentalism is about. It's about relegating worker's rights to the scrap heap, not even recognizing them, and putting the rights of property owners first. And, as commodities, we aren't supposed to complain, we're supposed to simply go somewhere else if we don't like the conditions, and let the invisible hand work it's magic. And, when there is nowhere else to go, we're supposed to shut up, like any other commodity would. The one crucial fact that you are overlooking is that people are not commodities.
    • by Some Dumbass... (192298) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:58PM (#8592628)
      You do as they say w/o too many questions. If you don't like the working conditions you find another place that is more towards your liking.

      India? :)

      Seriously, though, the whole "like it or lump it" attitude always bugs me. How in the world do employers manage to brainwash people into thinking that they're gods? Who says that I have to do what my employer says? If their policy is really that bad and the situation is really that serious, go over their heads, make some sort of formal complaint and encourage others to do the same, talk to your union (if you have one), illustrate the consequences of that bad decision (as an earlier poster suggested, "The server's down, who knew?"), and/or threaten to quit (as a next-to-last resort). There are alternatives to quitting if you're clever enough to use them and if the situation justifies using them.

      If all that doesn't work, _then_ you quit, but even then only if it's worth it. Remember the perks of your job, the friends you've made at work who you won't see as much anymore, the extra effort which you'll have to put into finding a new job and making a new routine for yourself, and so on.
  • by rwiedower (572254) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:31PM (#8592231) Homepage
    Actually, both my friends who work in the government and my father who works in a hospital have this requirement. One has to do with security, the other with interference of pacemakers and electronic equipment. Sometimes a cell-phone ban (though I'm not in favor of it) actually is the responsible thing to do.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:40PM (#8592365)
      the other with interference of pacemakers

      It's a good thing those pacemakers are only used inside hospitals. Just imagine what would happen if they let those people walk around outside where the cell towers broadcast.
      • by pvt_medic (715692) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:59PM (#8592645)
        not exactly correct. The cellular phones interfere with the cardiac monitoring equipment and some of the imaging equipment (although i really doubt that a cell phone is going to last long enough to mess up an MRI). However it is the frequency they work on that causes the problem. That is why pagers are so popular in the hospital setting.

        Picture phones are another problem. The advent of picture phones has led to bans of cell phones in medical, children, exercise, entertainment environments. While they exist they are poorly enforced.

        The other issue mentioned about governemnt and security. Well if you are in one of thos jobs that has cell phone bans, i am surprised i am even having to explain this to you. YOU CAN BE TRACKED BY YOUR CELL PHONE. (watch "the recruit" they focus in on that one a lot). If you dont understand the implications of being tracked you probably shouldnt have that classified clearance you have.

        Well my 2 cents worth.
      • by Phil John (576633) <phil@webstarslt d . c om> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:59PM (#8592646)
        ...a teaching hospital (fairly large one at that) actually has a few masts on its roof. It's bullshit that modern phones muck up hospital equipment. This was not the case 10-15 years ago when phones transmitted at a higher power and hospital equipment was less advanced than it is now.
      • by Stomple (746339) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:04PM (#8592707)
        Actually, the concern on the interference isn't on the pacemaker that is implanted. The reason why ICU and cardiac telemetry floors in hospitals have cell phone bans is that external EKG cardiac monitors placed on the patients have small transmitters that broadcast the information to monitoring stations in a central part of the ward. Patient's would never be in danger of dying if someone used a cell phone in the units but they might interfere with the wireless monitoring causing faulty transmission of these signals.

        I think the real risk of the interference is low, but it would actually be funny if it looked like everyone on the floor flatlined at once, as someone walks by talking on their cell phone.

  • by ebsf1 (689864) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:32PM (#8592239)
    If they won't let you use your own phone get them to provide you with a company phone. After all if you are using it for business then they should be paying for it.
  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:32PM (#8592241) Homepage
    So I can send an application. Cell phone free work place, bliss.

    I'd just reconfigure your alerts to be transmitted by email and kick back and let the good times roll.
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <{skennedy} {at} {tpno-co.org}> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:32PM (#8592244) Homepage
    If you use your cell for work as much as you say you do, and you are not alone, then the impact of this new policy will be felt.

    Do what they tell you to do, don't use your cell at work.

    On the flip side of it: If you truly do use your cell for work, then get them to spring for it ( monthly costs and all ). It's only fair.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:32PM (#8592245)
    Just tell me where I should send my resume so I can replace you.
  • by Bald Wookie (18771) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:33PM (#8592257)
    and even quitting in protest of the new policy

    I hate the damn things, you go ahead and quit. On your way out could you put in a good word for me?
  • How about a PDA? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FubarPA (670436) <brad.fubarpa@com> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:33PM (#8592258) Homepage
    Are those banned? If not, and you're lucky enough to have wireless access via your PDA, redirect all of your text alerts to an email address accessable via your PDA.

    This assumes you're in an environment with wireless, and you have a wireless-enabled PDA. Or, like another poster mentioned, see if they'll allow an alpha pager and go from there.

  • easy answer (Score:5, Funny)

    by glen604 (750214) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:33PM (#8592261)
    Connect the servers to the company's paging system. A few weeks of hearing "THE SERVER IS DOWN!!" at 120 decibels ought to make them reconsider.
  • by Mike the Mac Geek (182790) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:33PM (#8592262) Journal
    then they should pay for it. Plain and simple. My office has no idea I have a cell phone number. They know I have a phone, but they are not gonna get the number unless I see part of the bill being paid by them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:34PM (#8592272)
    Seems pretty obvious to me: ignore their silly rules, set your phone on vibrate and go about your business.

    Quit over this? What, are they going to fire you if you check an occasional text message on your (silent) cell phone?

    Some rules are made to be broken, not fought.
  • If It's Broke... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by schmidt349 (690948) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:35PM (#8592291)
    I think you need to spell out to your employers the importance of your cell phone particularly as it relates to your work. Make it clear to them that their new policy will substantially diminish your ability (and that of anyone else you can reasonably claim) to work efficiently, and that if it's implemented as planned, your company's productivity will diminish. Those are the terms that any executive or middle manager will understand.

    And if that doesn't work, it might be worth it to try to get the company to issue work-only cell phones. It would be kind of a hassle to keep switching between two, but it might be the kind of alternative they'd be willing to agree to.
  • Work to rule (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dasein (6110) * <{tedc} {at} {codebig.com}> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:36PM (#8592299) Homepage Journal
    It's unclear whether you are saying that the company won't allow cell phones to be used or won't be supplying them. An outright banning cell phone from the workplace is extreme and should be met with a quick move to another company. To be potentially unreachable by family in the case of emergency is not a condition I would tolerate.

    Let's assume that's not the case and they just won't be providing you a cell phone. Your job is to keep systems running. If you fail to keep them running you will be seen as not doing your job. Any excuses about the company not providing a cell phone will be seen as petty.

    So, I would ask if the company is going to reimburse business calls on your cell phones. If they aren't, you should ask them where notification should be sent and that your cell phone is unacceptable. They may tell you to have notifications sent to your supervisor. If so, do it and get on with life. Don't feel obligated to leave your cell phone on all the time - besides I think it sucks the life force out of you to be reachable all the time. This makes your supervisor responsible for responding to notifications. A few weeks of your supervisor getting the notifications and not being able to reach you during movies, etc. and the policy will probably change.

    If they are going to reimburse expenses, leave it as is and make sure you get the expense reports in every month. Do the expense reports on company time and make sure that the time spent that way is clearly noted on any status reports. Once they realize that they're spending $10/month on cell service for you and $50/month for you to itemize the statement and another 10/month to process the expense reports, the may get smart and change the policy.

    In short, follow the rules but make them follow the rules as well (i.e. That you won't accept un-reimbursed business expenses.) See this. [bartleby.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:36PM (#8592306)
    I used to run my own webserver at home on a mac. I did Mac phone tech support, and over time quite a few of the sites & hints I did for customers ended up on my server.

    When I needed to sell the mac to cover school fees and told my work they should really host the stuff themselves, I was told under no circumstances should I remove work material from where it was used. Hell I was happy to give them the domain too, it was just a small vanity one that had no other use to me.

    So in the end I had to sell the Mac, the site went down, and I lost my job. Sucks
  • by IANAAC (692242) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:37PM (#8592327)
    Set up your monitoring system to only send email during the day. Have it send text messages to your cell phone after hours. Pretty simple and non-intrusive.
  • by LittleGuy (267282) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:38PM (#8592345)
    Know when the policy will be reversed?

    When your boss' boss needs someone ASAP from the IT department and can't reach them via the corporate phone system.

    And your boss will be flippin' burgers.
  • Reasons? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Macfox (50100) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:38PM (#8592348) Homepage
    Have they detailed why?

    Often it helps to know the exact reason before blowing up and making a stink over it. It also means you can approach them for a exemption and know what not to say when trying to justify it.

  • by Wireless Joe (604314) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:39PM (#8592356) Homepage

    And then argue that it's not a cellular phone, but a two-way radio. You'd be tecnically correct.*

    *And that's the best kind of correct.
  • by blurred.vision (757493) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:40PM (#8592371) Journal
    I have found that in this situation, outlining a business case with real world cost benefit analysis of several options helps the management types with an agenda see the light of day without losing face.

    Outline in a business case that you are keen to meet company pollicies, but as you are no longer able to utilise your mobile phone for the work purposes you outlined, you require :

    a) a pager and company cell phone or equavalent to maintain the current levels of service;
    b) a company provided other doo-hickey remote support solution (fill in the blanks here);or

    c) special expemption to utilise your personal cell phone, with an allowance to reimburse you for the relevant quiantity of your monthly bill.

    For each of the options, outline the costs versus the benefits to the company, and make a reccomendation on the preferred options for the company, and outline why.

    I have found this approach works wonders with managers.
  • You don't need it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jyoull (512280) <jim AT media DOT mit DOT edu> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:41PM (#8592380)
    You don't need a personal cell phone at work. IF these server notices are important to work, then the employer can provide you with either a telephone or text pager or blackberry... and if they don't want to do that, then you are no longer on the hook for notices you couldn't receive

    if you family needs to reach you at work, they can call in through the usual office lines, like everyone always did in the time before we all had cell phones in our pockets.

    i really don't see the problem here.
  • by zakezuke (229119) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:42PM (#8592399)
    I have a number of servers and custom applications configured to notify me by text message, in the event of a problem.

    If I were you... I woudl think it would be in your best interest to get them to sport for either an alphanumeric pager, or a two way pager.

    Just a oneway alpha/numeric pager should work as well as your current mobile setup, may not even require changes to your script.

    Two way pager may be able to be attached to a serial port... provided you use TTL levels, and just accept error messages regardless of whether you have a network connection or not.

    It seems to me that you are doing your job and using your equipment to do it. If they won't allow you to bring in your own equipment it's only common sence for them to buy it.

    Otherwise, you can invest in a handheld internet terminal, which while can be used as a mobile phone, are more likely to inspire sympathy as being a IT required device. Unless they plan to ban handheld palm like devices.
  • Good question (Score:5, Informative)

    by g0bshiTe (596213) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:44PM (#8592413)
    Here is my delima. I pay my phone bill, it is my cell phone. Yet 98% of the calls I recieve are work related. We have a zero tolerance policy also for cell phones. Which I adhere to as does everyone else. When I forget to turn MY phone back on after leaving work, I get my ass chewed. Yet my company pays for none of the minutes they use. I recently had my cell phone disconnected for currency issues ( lack thereof ). I was told that I had one week in which to have it turned back on or lose my job.

    I had no clue what to do in this situation either. It has gotten to the point where I could no longer afford the bill I was getting every month for a service that turned out to be work related. I have tried showing and even turning in a copy of my cell bill showing the company use, and requesting reimbursement. You know what, it never happened. Yet make one long distance call at work, and you get blasted.
    • Re:Good question (Score:5, Informative)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:05PM (#8592716) Homepage
      First, you need to start looking for another job. Your boss's head is not screwed on straight.

      Second, if you can't explain to your boss the illogic of demanding that you provide a cell phone for him to call you, you need to talk to his boss about this situation. If they want to contact you after hours, they should supply the means to do so. That's only reasonable.

      Third, make a phone call to a labor lawyer, to see if firing you for failing to provide your own mobile phone would qualify as "wrongful termination" in your jurisdiction. There are limits even on "at will" employment.

  • by jd142 (129673) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:44PM (#8592424) Homepage
    Seriously. Why do you need a cell phone? Do you have a phone on your desk at work so that people at work can get a hold of you that way? Do you have email?

    I'm trying to think of why you might need to use your cell phone at work, and these are what I could come up with:

    1) Communicate with other people in the organization or company. If this is the case, then the company should provide a phone for that purpose. Obviously the company you work for does not think a cell phone is necessary to do the work they hired you to do. They could be wrong, but that's what they think. If so, either convince them they're wrong, if they really are, or use the tools and processes they want you to use for communication.

    2) To communicate with vendors or other 3rd parties. If so, then the company should provide you with a phone, but it doesn't have to be a cell phone.

    3) Personal calls. It's actually better for the company to make a phone available for personal calls. Many little errands can be done over the phone that you would otherwise have to take time off for work to handle and it is invariably more efficient to use the phone. It may be in an inconvenient location, but they aren't obligated to make it convenient for you. And if they don't provide a phone for personal calls to take care of personal items, then you either take a couple of hours off from work to run errands, figure out another way to handle the errand, or quit over it. Quitting seems excessive.

    4) You mention server alerts. Are you attempting to manager either personal servers or servers you've set up for a side business on company time? If so, why should they permit that? Many companies even have specific rules against moonlighting because they know the drain two jobs can have on a person. Switch to email alerts and have the mail sent to an account you can check at work. Then if they see that you're doing a second job on their time, they can deal with that as appropriate.

    Do they provide you with a phone at your desk or nearby? Seriously, a cell phone is not a necessity.

    • by digitalvengeance (722523) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:13PM (#8592805)
      1) Communicate with other people in the organization or company. If this is the case, then the company should provide a phone for that purpose. Obviously the company you work for does not think a cell phone is necessary to do the work they hired you to do. They could be wrong, but that's what they think. If so, either convince them they're wrong, if they really are, or use the tools and processes they want you to use for communication.

      I have an office phone, but I don't always sit in my office. I am frequently in meetings, visiting other locations, performing system tests in other locations, etc. It is frequently 3 or 4 hours between stops at my desk to check my messages, my email, etc. The company would not be happy if a critical service was down for 3 or 4 hours because I was busy elsewhere.

      2) To communicate with vendors or other 3rd parties. If so, then the company should provide you with a phone, but it doesn't have to be a cell phone.

      I don't use it for this very much, though our T1 provider does notify me via cell phone if there is a problem after hours.


      3) Personal calls. It's actually better for the company to make a phone available for personal calls. Many little errands can be done over the phone that you would otherwise have to take time off for work to handle and it is invariably more efficient to use the phone. It may be in an inconvenient location, but they aren't obligated to make it convenient for you. And if they don't provide a phone for personal calls to take care of personal items, then you either take a couple of hours off from work to run errands, figure out another way to handle the errand, or quit over it. Quitting seems excessive.

      I don't make/take personal calls at work with only few rare exceptions. I am far too busy to!

      4) You mention server alerts. Are you attempting to manager either personal servers or servers you've set up for a side business on company time? If so, why should they permit that? Many companies even have specific rules against moonlighting because they know the drain two jobs can have on a person. Switch to email alerts and have the mail sent to an account you can check at work. Then if they see that you're doing a second job on their time, they can deal with that as appropriate.

      All alerts are for work-owned and work-dedicated servers. Though I do contract with other companies and do have alerts sent to my phone, they are ignored until after business hours. My primary responsibility is to my primary employer.

      Interestingly, even in this tight IT market, my company values IT employees otherwise. I am moving soon and the company is bending over backwards to let me keep my position despite the fact that I'll be living 2 hours from our closest office.
    • by swb (14022) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:38PM (#8593118)
      I'm really amazed at the number of "why do you need one?" posts. Sorry, but yours is one of the more pedantic and supportive of totalitarian work rules.

      We also don't "need" computers, the internet, cars, air conditioning or any of the other components of the 21st century, except for that they all make us way more productive and in touch.

      Employers who embrace this and make it work for them will reap huge rewards, those with control agendas or luddite tendencies will pay the penalty.
  • Laptops (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:45PM (#8592445)
    One of my former employers had to implement a ban on personal devices unless otherwise approved because the salespeople were all bringing in personal laptops and wanting to use them despite the fact that they had perfectly good computers on their desks. This was getting to the point that they were starting to trip the circuit breaker and taking the entire room's power down.

    The reason they wanted to use their own laptops became a bit of a turf war. See, these were mostly new sales reps who had worked for other companies before joining ours. They wanted to keep their sales contact list on their own laptop so they could bring it from employer to employer. The company wanted them to store their sales leads only on the company server because even though sales reps could only see their own accounts, when a rep leaves it becomes very easy to split their leads list among other reps and also limits the outgoing rep's ability to contact their existing accounts under a new employer.

    The IT department's offer was to convert any contact database into our system. We never did get any reps who took us up on that, but some left in protest of being unable to keep their laptops up-to-date.
  • by CrankyFool (680025) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:47PM (#8592475)
    It's amazing how many people are pointing out that the company has a right to do this and in the end the employee can only put up or leave.

    Yes, we know. Move on, nothing to see here.

    Taken to its basic components, any relationship is one where any entity can do whatever it is they want to do and the other entity can decide whether or not they want to put up with it based on some sort of cost/benefit analysis. This works in *both* directions -- Some of my users (salespeople with eight-digit sales per year) pretty much have a 'get out of jail for free' card at work.

    But relationships are not just "put up with it or leave." The company presumably has an interest in you working for them because otherwise, well, they wouldn't employ you (ignoring the possibility they're doing this as a way to persuade people to quit so they can outsource them to India without severance pay or unemployment benefit hit). In the end, relationships where each party does the very minimal required of them sort of suck both on the personal and professional levels.

    All of which is a long-winded way of saying that you want your relationship with your company to have some flexibility in it, and in order for it to have flexibility in one side, it needs to have flexibility in the other side also. So if you're getting work phone calls on your personal cell, it's perfectly reasonable to say "look, I'm bending here and using my cell phone for work purposes and that's OK -- would you bend a little and let me keep it?" If, on the other hand, they absolutely refuse to be flexible, then absolutely you're under no obligation to be flexible yourself -- if they don't allow you a personal cellphone, then don't allow them to use that cellphone to contact you.

    Companies that don't want your personal life intruding into their business shouldn't intrude with business into your personal life. Now, mind you, that's a perfectly reasonable and rational approach to which the company may respond with "tough, we can replace you with an Indian for $5/hr. Want to see who blinks first?" That's something you have to deal with and figure out how far you're willing to go.
    • by enjo13 (444114) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:13PM (#8592792) Homepage
      I scanned through all of the comments, because I was about to post the exact same thing. Well said.

      The company I work for has a number of policies, and in return I have the "treat me like a fricking adult" policy. I've often butted head with management over time and leave issues.

      Through a number of compromises I'm now open to working the occasional 10 hour day, while in exchange they're willing to deal with the occasional 2 hour lunch and slightly odd hours (to avoid rush hour). It's a comrpomise that works for both of us, and in the end it's created the groundwork for a work environment that respects me as a person, rather than a resource. It sounds like the company this guy works for sees it's employees as something other than adults, and it's upt to him to either a) try to fix it or b) move on to somewhere that already has.
  • by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:52PM (#8592532)
    Quit accepting work calls on your personal cell phone. When pages/text messages/important calls aren't followed up on until the next day (because you get the calls at home, and will dutifully handle them when you get back to work) they might see that it is a useful thing for you to have - and provide you an employer sponsored cell phone.

    Yeah - it is a stupid policy, the other thing is depending on company culture can you just sit down with your (hopefully) sane manager and say what it is used for and ask to get a waiver from the policy (I worked at a company that had really weird rules, that first line managers could ignore if they didn't apply to their workers).

  • SEC requirement. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmongar (230600) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:54PM (#8592556)
    Did you ever ask why the policy was instituted. Companies that are governed by the SEC and engage in stock or fund trading are required to have all employee communications monitorable. This way if they suspect someone of giving insider information they have records of the phone calls and emails. Use of personal cell phones make it hard for them to comply with the SEC.
  • by digitalvengeance (722523) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:57PM (#8592616)
    Clarification from the submitter:

    Though this policy was abandoned due to my concerns prior to being implemented, it still has relevance in many places. Let me answer some of the questions that have been asked.

    Work was, in-fact, saying that I cannot bring in my personal cell phone. Though they don't pay me for for the phone bill itself, I do get compensated for responding to server-down pages or other problems after hours and this more than pays for the phone bill.

    Why are they doing this? The stated reason is security. We've been the victim of intellectual property theft due to camera phones, but in my case: it isn't an issue. I have, in effect, clearance to any and all company documents at this location and all others.

    As for forwarding my responsibilities to my supervisor, it just won't work. I report directly to the president of the company and he is not exactly a power-user. I've been with the company just over three years, and he's never even glanced at any of my coding work. He simply believes the heads of other departments when they note that their IT systems are doing well, saving money, or whatever the case is.


    To save this poor guy a headache: I am not Brian Cancio. I don't own that domain and have no involvement with it whatsoever. Digitalvengeance is just a slashdot ID as my usual alias was already taken.
  • by araven (71003) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:11PM (#8592772)
    I had an incident where one employee left a cell phone at their desk, it rang (one of those really annoying music rings) on and off for nearly an hour. Another employee (next cube over) turned it off. The first employee went ballistic about that. That was fun. Once in a while I'll have an employee who just spends wayyy too much time talking on their cell phone. Lovely to deal with that as well.

    The reason companies never wanted people making personal calls at work was not the cost of the (mostly local) calls, but the cost of their NONPRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEES. When employees have cell phones (as most do now), they feel much more justified in sitting around on the phone since the "cost" is theirs. People who know not to spend hours on personal calls on their desk phones seem to have no compunction about doing the same thing on their cell phones.

    So what's the solution? In my experience, the RATIONAL answer is to speak to each person when you feel that they've crossed a line, and make a decision suited to the problem. In my experience, the rational answer will get you reamed. Employees who care so little about their responsibilities to their work and to their co-workers tend also to have no compunction about arguing "disparate treatment" (as though cell-phone users are a protected minority). We are forced to make inane blanket policies that hurt the decent employees who probably ARE contributing their personal cell minutes to the company, in order to stop the bad behavior of a few. I've been told by HR that I cannot tell ONE employee to "leave the cell phone in your car" I must make the rule for EVERY employee in the department (not that I have, I'd rather lose the productivity of the lamer employees than disgruntle the better ones).

    Anyway, there are two sides to every story.

    ~
  • by sir_cello (634395) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:26PM (#8592955)
    1. You have no specific right to be able to use your personal phone in the work place, period. Arguing about personal rights sounds good, but you're on company time, company money and company resources. Sorry. Your employer has the liberty to restrict anything that comes into the work place. If you need to receive emergency or other sorts of calls, that's what your manager can do. If you need to make personal calls: that's called on your lunch break. In practice, most work places allow use of business phones / communication services for "reasonable" personal use: just don't abuse it is the usual rule.

    2. If you need the cell phone for your duties: then you should have it funded by the company. If it's not absolutely necessary for your work, there's not much you can do about claiming that denying it to you undermines your employment contract (this argument can work in some countries). In the case of your sort of work, I don't think you could argue that it's absolutely necessary to do your job, but in reality, it's probably making you a more effective employee. If they are short sighted about this: try to change their attitude, or find a new and smarter work place. That's life.

    3. Because of your job function, there's probably a good argument that a cell phone adds enough value so that your role should be an exception to the general rule. Either the exception is that they allow you to use your own phone for work purposes, or they fund it for use in business purposes only. If you want to make your argument for this: you need to present a bottom line oriented business case: just _exactly_ how does the cell phone actually concretely contribute to making you a more effective employee and how does it contribute to the bottom line: some examples and so on would help. Again, if they aren't convinced by this (and they're not obliged to), then tough for you: find a new workplace. When you go to the interview for the new workplace, check out these details to see whether it's the kind of place you want to work.

    I once saw a helpdesk ticket from someone asking for "MSN Messenger" installation for "communication with people in israel" ... "necessary for my job function": it smelled very badly that she just wanted to chat at work, and the helpdesk ticket was rejected. You don't want to look like this girl: you need to put forward a professional case.

  • pcs... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by matticus (93537) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @06:27PM (#8592966) Homepage
    I'm a sysadmin at a mostly-mac scientific institute. Some of the labs allow scientists to bring in personal laptops, and we have many windows laptops that are personally owned. I understand the problem, and how these scientists need their own computers, but it is nothing but a pain for us because their computers aren't patched, aren't virus-scanned, etc, and when they bring them home to work on their dsl lines, these scientists end up bringing an infected computer in which spreads to all the windows-only instrument computers. Thus, I will be the last person to condone personally-owned equipment-it provides nothing but headaches to our department.

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