What are some workplace iPod rules you should enforce? Does anything go or should iPods and other music headphones be left at home? Business adviser Cliff Ennico offers some guidelines that make sense for small business owners and their employees.
Hi I’m Cliff Ennico, Legal Editor of SBTV.com and author of the best selling book, “Small Business Survival Guide.” So you’ve got a small business with a bunch of employees who kind of tend to the younger side and you’ve noticed that some of them are starting to show up at work wearing a funny thing, it kind of looks like a square medallion on their chest that’s hooked into their ears by too long white cords. Congratulations, you now have iPod people in your workplace. Should you tolerate iPod used in the workplace? And if so, what are the rules and policies you should develop to restrict the use in situations where it might not be appropriate. Well first of all, for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about. An iPod is a device which enables someone to listen to music or other audio content such as old radio programs and speeches and that kind of stuff in a device that’s about the size of a cigarette lighter. It’s battery operated. You can carry it around with you and it hooks into your ears with two little earphones which are actually called earbuds by people who are iPod savvy. They are a lot of fun but they also can be somewhat distracting because when you’re using an iPod, you are totally tuned out to the outside world. It’s not like listening to a stereo or a CD player in the background where you can hear things that are going on around you, when those earbuds are in your ears, you really can not hear what’s going on in the outside world so. Well the use of iPods maybe appropriate in some cases. I think you should have some policies about their use in the workplace. But let’s say something just from a common sense standpoint. If you’ve got employees in your small business and they tend to gear to the younger side, you’ve got to be somewhat flexible in your workplace policies. One of the reasons that these people are working for you as opposed to a big company is that they want some flexibility in their work environment. They don’t want to feel that they are working for a stuffy starchy company. They want the ability to be able to have some fun in the office place if they so choose, and if you deny them that, you’re going to have trouble keeping those employees so you’re going to have to be somewhat flexible. If people want to listen to music in the workplace and it’s not going to damage your business in any way, you probably should allow them to use it but having said that, there are some common sense rules. Rule number one, do not allow iPods in company meetings. If someone is in a situation where they are supposed to be listening to you, they shouldn’t be tuned into "Jimi" Hendrix or the ye-, ye-, yes. That’s number one. Number two, if your employees are dealing with customers or clients on a regular basis, they must be required not to have their iPods plugged in when they are dealing with customers or client. Your customers and clients are not going to look at this the way you do. If they walk into your store or place of business and they see young people around listening to iPods, they’re not thinking, “Oh gee, what a flexible, wonderful place to work. I want to work here.” What they are thinking is, “These kids are tuning out. They are not paying attention to me. Are these people paying attention to their jobs?” Any employee who has customer or client contact should be required not to use the iPod when they are actually in contact with customers or clients or if customers and clients are in immediate vicinity. Rule number three, make sure your iPod people know that they have to take their iPods out when they are approached by customers or co-workers in the workplace. By the way, one of the great ways to drive an iPod person crazy is when they are listening to their iPods, walk up to them, make an eye to eye contact, and then [Demonstration]. If you can do that with a straight face, it will absolutely drive them nuts, they won’t know what’s going on. And by the way, don’t do this unless you know it’s a joke and you know the other person will take it as a joke otherwise they will freak out, they will think their iPod battery has died and they will probably do something damaging. So be very careful about that whenever you use it in the workplace, make sure it’s appropriate humor but having said that, it’s a great thing to do this to someone who’s wearing an iPod. Next rule is make sure that they are only using iPods to listen to audio. There are now iPods that’s called an iPhone where people can actually watch videos. I frankly think that’s too distracting in a workplace setting unless they are actually using it in the workplace if they are actually creating podcast for your company. They probably should limit their iPod use to just audio content. And last but not least, no inappropriate physical behavior. No head banging. No dancing on table tops. I mean look, if you’re a small business, you want to create a fun environment for your workplace but there are limits to the appropriateness of when an employee can boogie in the workplace. That is of course, unless you’re Cliff Ennico, the Legal Editor of SBTV.com.