I was greeted this morning as I did the reading I like to do by this article, which made me happy. A company called AMEC, an engineering design form has banned the use of cell phones and communications devices by their employees while they are driving. The ban applies to all 44,000 employees world wide from the CEO on down. All employees have to sign a code of business conduct saying that they will comply with the rule.
Why does this make me so happy? A couple of reasons. First of all, AMEC has recognized that safety trumps productivity. Put more succinctly — you can´t be too productive when you are dead. Everyone has dozens of horror stories about times when they have been cut off by or narrowly avoided hitting someone who was obliviously talking on their phone while driving. As annoying is getting stuck at a light behind someone who is reading their e-mail on a Blackberry instead of looking for green. You cannot fully concentrate on driving effectively when you are using a device, so this ban makes AMEC´s employees, and the rest of the drivers on the road, safer.
Second, this policy recognizes that you can be productive and effective without hand-held devices. Indeed, if you are driving during work hours you have a rare luxury that you should take advantage of. You are alone and without interruptions. You have time to think, create, imagine and plan without all the distractions of your office. You can visualize the meeting you are driving to. Why wouldn´t you take full advantage of that opportunity? By using your devices in the car as you drive you are just bringing the distractions of your office with you. Take advantage of the freedom while you can, because it´s fleeting.
An interesting thing happened when AMEC instituted this policy. Not only was feedback from employees positive, but their customers said that they thought their companies should do the same thing. Prospective employees were more eager to work for the firm. Their employees have become advocates of a policy, even going so far as to create a list of ten tips to help follow the new rule. My favorite tip — "Encourage other addicts to hang up"?¦ it is OK to be a strong advocate to others to create social change.´ A thoughtful, effective has policy paid off for the company in several ways.
Several companies are creating similar policies of their own. An initiative at the University of Alberta called the Coalition for Cell-phone-Free Driving has signed up six companies including Halliburton and Schlumberger. The more companies and individuals that embrace the idea in the future, the safer the roads will be. And we won´t be any less productive, either.