• Avoid Running Afoul of Labor Regulations and Their Costly Ramifications •
Ever since smartphones came into being, our ability to check emails at all hours has led to a steady erosion of work-life balance. On top of that, noise from productivity apps installed on our phones, from Slack to Trello, constantly bombards our consciousness, disrupting our commute, rest and recreation, meals, and time with family. Even for salaried, exempt employees, it takes discipline and a healthy sense of self (not suffering from FOMO or an illusion of indispensability to our colleagues) to lay down boundaries and say no to 24/7 availability. If you offer mobile tools to your hourly workforce — whether it’s the Legion app that we customize for each client’s store location, or something you’ve developed in-house — we owe it to every team member to not let optional screen time become a source of stress. So that’s Reason #1 to adopt Legion’s 5 Best Practices for Employee Mobile Apps. Such tools should only enhance productivity and engagement, not detract from it.
And here’s Reason #2 — how employees spend their time interacting with work-related technologies may put your company on the hook for their phone bills, data plans, hardware costs, and even overtime pay if they check their apps during off hours. If the purpose of your employee app is simply to make life easier for your hourly staff, and performing their jobs does not depend on it, then be sure to adhere to the following best practices to avoid driving up labor expenses.
FIVE BEST PRACTICES FOR EMPLOYEE MOBILE APPS
#1: Make It Optional, But Offer Real Alternatives
If your company requires employees to use their own mobile devices for work-related purposes, the law is pretty clear that you have to reimburse them for their expenses, even if an employee already has an “unlimited” plan and does not pay extra fees. (In California, this is governed by Labor Code Section 2802; legal geeks can look up the 2014 case Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Services, which clarified how the law was to be applied to cell phone use at work.)
How costly can non-compliance be? In early 2019, ABM Industries, a cleaning services company, reached a $5.4 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit for failing to reimburse janitorial employees for using their cellphones to clock in and out and communicate with their managers. Ouch.
The workaround is to make the mobile app entirely optional and voluntary, to the extent that there are reasonable alternatives for employees to accomplish the same tasks. Our Legion app broadcasts upcoming schedules and available shifts and allows employees to sign up with a few clicks. If your company does not require team members to use the app, make sure to set up acceptable substitutes, such as a computer kiosk at the workplace or a paper schedule posted on the wall. Legion has simplified access to these key functions by making our portal available on the web browser and schedules deliverable via email.
#2: Bake Mobile Usage Policy Into Onboarding Workflow
Every human resources team needs to make this front and center in the onboarding process so that there is zero ambiguity once the new hire has downloaded the app and received login credentials. To ensure proper capture and reporting of consent, we recommend presenting any mobile app’s terms of service as well as your company’s custom mobile policy as a click-through acceptance workflow. You do not need pages of legalese. Just put it in plain English that the employee’s use of the mobile app is entirely voluntary and not a condition of employment. Finally, make it an explicit opt-in for the employee to receive a link to download and use the mobile app. If your team has the good fortune to be on the Legion workforce management platform ?, all these steps are already embedded in the mobile app invitation and account creation process because, of course, we walk the talk!
#3: Enable Full Control Over Notification Settings
A team member who has a set schedule and not much flexible free time may not want to receive notifications about an open shift that suddenly becomes available because a colleague has called in sick. Also, as hourly employees are not obligated to read messages from their bosses during off hours, they should be afforded the option to turn off notifications for these messages, even if they may voluntarily choose to engage and respond at their convenience. On the company’s end, be mindful of when messages are sent, so that you don’t inadvertently infringe on an employee’s free time.
On the Legion app, notifications are turned off by default, but the employee can selectively enable them for different categories. (Our categories for messages are Schedules & Shift Offers, General Announcements, and Inbox Messages.) Additionally, you can specify when messages are delivered — only when the employee is logged in, or immediately. We also include a disclaimer that says notifications may be sent outside of work hours. You can’t go wrong by adopting our protocol for push notifications and timing options for message delivery.
#4: Provide Additional Control Over Data Usage
Some messages and large attachments may take up quite a bit of bandwidth, and depending on an employee’s data plan, connection speed and the phone’s storage capacity, s/he may opt to only download files under circumscribed settings. A simple default would be to permit auto-download only when the device is connected to a WiFi network, while giving the employee the choice to “Always” or “Never” download attachments regardless of connection type, with an extra option to manually override this preference. This should pretty much cover the bases for helping employees protect their data plans from overages.
#5: Safeguard Data Security
Whether your employees’ work-related mobile interactions are stored on an internal server or in an external cloud (such as Legion’s), it is imperative to employ good security measures at all times. This is obviously a topic beyond the scope of this post, but the relevant point is this: when mobile apps are available to employees for scheduling and communications, the company needs to maintain control and ownership of all the activities that have transpired, and be able to immediately remove access to critical data (schedules, messages, etc.) upon an employee’s termination. This functionality should be available on any well-designed supervisor’s dashboard — as ours is.
THE LEGION APP
The Legion employee app is available at no extra cost to our clients as an optional, value-added service for shift workers, with all the above considerations already built in. To see how this works in real life to help your company stay compliant, maintain data security, and optimize employee engagement, set up a time with one of our awesome Legion team captains for a step-by-step demo.