back to article Policing personal calls on business mobiles

Communications technology makes it easy to mix up personal and business calls. If you want to keep track of what you pay for, and minimise your mobile bills, then you should be able to monitor personal use at some level - either independently, or with the help of your service provider. Giving employees a mobile phone or …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Give and take

    The arrangement I have with my company is as follows: if you want me to be at the end of a phone line at all hours then you can damn well pay for the calls I make on it.

    In fact, I still have a personal mobile but I make chargeable calls (international, roaming, voicemail, anything outside of my plan) on the work mobile.

    I doubt this works out as more than £10-20 / month, and if it were more than, say, £50 then we might have an issue. But in the main I'm not obliged to carry it and as such, in doing so, I expect to enjoy some of the perks associated with being permanently connected to the office.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    half a page?

    > Get the data into a CSV file, or (better) an SQL database, and you can use half a page of Perl code to do the analysis for you.

    Pah! Any decent perl hacker would get it all on one line

    1. An ominous cow herd

      To Pete 2

      > Pah! Any decent perl hacker would get it all on one line

      Yes, of course, with that line beeing hal a page long...

  3. s. pam

    guess what, I now ONLY work 9-5

    do this to me and i'll no longer be available, will take my lunch hour and EU mandated breaks. it's in my contract for "reasonable personal calls" so as my employer is it really worth it to you to piss me off?

    i thought not.

    1. KjetilS

      My work phone *is* my personal phone

      I have free cell phone as part of my contract, so my employer pays for both personal and business calls (within reason ofcourse).

      It's considered part of the compensation for being available on call 24/7.

      They also compensate with extra pay if I have to show up at work outside business hours.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Company mobiles? Nein Danke

    I always insist on using my personal mobile and claiming business calls back on expenses. It's very easy to show the itemised bill (with non-business calls redacted of course).

    It also has the effect that should I want to reject any and all work-related calls which come in out of office hours, I can do so, and there's nothing they can do.

    One company insisted that I took a company mobile. Fine; I just kept it locked in a drawer at the office. If it rang at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it woke only the rats.

  5. PaulK

    Want me to carry your phone?

    Then expect me to make personal calls on it. Simples.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    If they went too far then...

    Luckily my company is very pragmatic about it. They know it is NOT a perk to have a company phone on all the time so allow personal use. They do produce a list of the highest bills each month for line management query, though.

    BUT, if they started to clamp down on personal calls then I would give my work mobile back immediately (as I wouldn't want to carry 2 phones). Not only that I would get a premium rate number redirected to my mobile for work to use if they wanted me...kerching.

    hopefully this would make them rethink, and go back to accepting the £10 or so per month it costs them at the moment.

    1. NumptyScrub

      Premium rate?


      "BUT, if they started to clamp down on personal calls then I would give my work mobile back immediately (as I wouldn't want to carry 2 phones). Not only that I would get a premium rate number redirected to my mobile for work to use if they wanted me...kerching.

      hopefully this would make them rethink, and go back to accepting the £10 or so per month it costs them at the moment."

      This is fine, as long as you don't mind the company providing premium rate contact numbers for HR and your line manager, for when you need to phone in sick or get stuck in traffic. I'm seeing all sorts of kneejerk reactions here to the possibility of companies telling employees that using company provided (and funded) equipment for personal use is not allowed, but none so far of people knee-jerking back at what appear to be some textbook passive-aggressive behaviours. Think about it this way; if you provided a funded mobile to your child with the express purpose of it only being used to contact you or you to contact them, would you still pay for it when they come back with those same arguments? I have a suspicion that "yeah well dad, if you want me to carry this mobile around then you can pay for my personal calls on it can't you" would get a slightly different response than the one you're expecting back from your employer, when you say essentially the same thing.

      Especially if the kid came back with "well I'll just get my own mobile, and give you a premium rate number to call if you want to get hold of me" ;)

  7. adnim Silver badge

    Silly me

    "We especially want to know more about the potential for abuse of mobile data services. Are your users streaming movies or playing games on the company smartphones and cellular-enabled laptops? If so, what do you do about it?"

    The exact question I thought was going to be addressed.

    Quantifying abuse of company communication is easy, running logs through scripts is all it takes. Qualifying that use is something else.

    In a small business with a few dozen mobile device users, whom you actually meet from time to time perhaps get on a first name basis with, it is not difficult to understand usage habits. If a user starts to get a bit excessive with usage, a friendly word in the ear is all it needs. If someones usage is up because they are making a lot of calls to a sick relative, discretion can be used.

    <sarcasm style="just in case it isn't obvious">

    Larger companies where the user is just another asset and perhaps not really seen as a person at all, does it really matter? Have bill analysis software do it all, isolate the abusers, warn then, if usage still continues to be too high, have the bill analysis software send them their P45. Simple algorithms are all that is required. The analysis of usage patterns for voice and data should up with some figures to use as triggers. </sarcasm>

  8. Tim Wolfe-Barry
    Thumb Up

    I have a better solution...

    I work in Tech Support and have to keep my company mobile on and with me 24x7. I also loathe the idea of carrying 2 phones.

    The solution is to use a service that's part of the GSM standard - ALS or Alternate Line Service - which enables you to have 2 numbers on a single SIM.

    So I have 2 fully-featured numbers on a single SIM/Handset. Different ring-tones mean I can tell if it's a work or personal call I'm answering, a single button-press switches between lines and I get separate itemised bills. Work pays for work calls, I pay for personal ones. Occasionally I make an outbound call using the wrong line, but that cuts both ways and, since I rarely use all the minutes included with either plan, it's very much of a muchness in the end.

    What's the catch?

    It's called Orange Line 2 and it's not available to new subscribers any more, and no other carrier in the UK offers it...

  9. Leo Maxwell

    There are always one or two who take the p***

    We introduced a monthly cap some time ago, where we had a dozen engineers, all doing the same job, but 2 of them had monthly bills into 3 figures, whereas all the others hovered around £20-25.

    So we introduced a £30 cap, where we did not charge for personal calls, but exceeding the limit led to the balance being charged back to them.

    We average it over 3 months, so exceeding it slightly now and again was not penalised.

    It works very well, and the 2 (who insisted that they were only using the phone for business) have dropped their usage, without any apparent impact on their work.

    Obviously, this will not work for all companies, but it has for us.

  10. Velv Silver badge

    Why no Line 2 ?

    Why don't the networks offer Line 2 ? (Orange did, not any more)

    Most people I know with a work mobile also have a personal mobile so they can keep the two "lives" seperate.

    You'll always get some fraudsters making personal calls on the business line, but most people are honest enough that if you make life easy for them, they'll do the right thing.

  11. Aitor 1 Silver badge

    Don't pester me!

    The time they start telling me about personal use of my mobile, I will turn it off all day, contact me by fixed phone, or at least turn it off at non-work hours (including lunch time, etc).

    They have far more to lose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      As I understood 'line 2' it never actually had both lines active simultaneously, it just allowed 2 SIMs to be installed and you could switch between them (with a restart of the phone). I had looked at it for that very reason (particularly when phones were much larger and carrying two would have involved some dubious bulges in my trouser pockets, but being able to only use one SIM (and therefore line) at a time was less use.

      The other Orange '2 line' thing was useful though, being able to receive a second call while already on one. Not sure if they still do that - Vodafone don't appear to...

    2. annodomini2

      A little unfair IMO

      I have a business mobile and if that limit were imposed I wouldn't use it.

      It only gets used for the odd personal call when I travel on business outside of the country, I have a personal mobile aswell, but I'm travelling on company business and so they accept a modicum of personal calls in such circumstances.

      My usage varies depending on my workload and I regularly have to call other foreign countries from the location I am in, yes this is expensive, but necessary for the business.

      This could potentially be preventing your employees from doing their job and costing the business as a result.

      I accept some individuals will take the p**s, but when travelling abroad £30 is ridiculously low.

      1. Leo Maxwell


        Yes, but these are service engineers whose areas are all within the West Midlands.

        So justifying a monthly £150 phone bill for calling the office is a little difficult.

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Phone calls as expenses

        When I work on project that take me abroad for work, phone calls home from my mobile are part of my legitimate expenses claims (I haven't worked on a project that has required me to have a mobile supplied, thank the Invisble Pink Unicorn). I'm sure that would be the same as using a work mobile to phone home. If the amount of calls seems excessive, someone will ask to find out what the situation was. Where is the problem?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I work 90 hours a week plus, and am expected to be available any time, all for no overtime pay - I would expect these as a necessary requirement, otherwise, like s.pam, you lose 2/3 of my time as I work to rule.

    A happy employee is a hard working employee. An unhappy employee is ...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A few years back, the accountant, in a fit of awkwardness, started refusing to pay my phone bill until I marked all of the personal calls. That was fine. I'd spend half an hour every month marking all of my calls, all of which cost £0.00 as there were more inclusive minutes than I used. Which was clearly just a complete and utter waste of my time, and the accountant's going through a list of £0.00 calls to work out how much I'd spent...

  14. xyz
    Thumb Up

    I've designed one of these...

    ...for a client about 5 years ago. Complete doddle to do. Saves the client a fortune and the number of "I'm very a important person 'cos my phone bill is huge" users is down to about 2. System paid for itself in about 2 months.

  15. Ian 45


    My company has just brought in software that collects together my calls and I have to define which are private and which are business. At the moment I dont have to pay for personal calls but its obvious which way this is going.

    As soon as they begin to charge for personal calls they will find it is switched off between 5PM and 9am.

  16. Ken 16 Silver badge

    I keep 2 phones

    I use my personal one for personal calls and my work phone is turned off once I leave the office.

    A lot of people in my company itemise their calls but life's too short and mobiles are too lightweight to care about carrying more than one.

    The only trick is remembering which jacket I left it in when it's turned off.

  17. raving angry loony

    no pay, no leash.

    Putting me on an electronic leash is a perk for the company, not the employee. Want me on a leash, then expect me to deal with personal stuff on your dime, especially when I'm dealing with family stuff over the phone because I'm not there to deal with it in person.

    That said, if a company wants to charge me for "personal" calls, I'll get my own phone. I have no problem with that. Then they'll find that suddenly the leash is turned off after hours. Want me on a leash, you pay extra for the privilege - either as overtime or as on-call bonus.

    The one company I had that wanted me to itemize all my calls as business or personal stopped it after the 2nd bill for the hours I spent marking up the bill. My time was worth more than the calls I was making.

    No pay. No work. Simple.

  18. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    Where I used to work (just got laid off due to budget cuts), they changed from reasonable policy to "We go through the bill line-by-line, and every call that can't be justified you'll be disciplined for or fired." My boss at the time pointed out as the manager of a surplus outlet, he was getting and making like 50 calls a day, and itemizing them at the end of the month was pretty unreasonable, but they said that was too bad. He told them where to shove that phone, and made sure NOT to give them his personal cell. I was offered one and turned it down too.

    Basically, the effect was that people who *used* to be contactable via a business cell no longer are -- obviously, they turned down the chance to give them their personal cell numbers.

  19. Beanzy

    If they gave me a decent one I'd carry it.

    It's never been seen as an issue here. We pay a bulk fee with European & UK calls and data being inclusive. Job done. But they give me a really old crackberry which is a hand-me-doen from the tech support team on Noah's ark. It stays on divert to my personal mobile and I don't call anyone at work until I've got back to the beast-brick..... if it matters they'll call me.

    So why not use the free calls from work, it's none of their business who I call; so why worry when my own contract costs £8.50/month inclusive.

    Work snooping or looking over my shoulder would be seriously de-motivating. Luckily they know this and actually want people to work for them rather than waste energy working around them.

  20. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik


    I still don't have a work phone but then nobody has my cell phone number as well :)

    They can reach me via email if they need to(I have that available no the cell phone as well). That I check hourly. But my phones tend to be on silent 90% of the time.

    So far this worked just fine. If I ever were issued a work mobile though I'd have a discussion with my boss on when I'll be available and how the costs would get covered.

  21. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

    Out of interest...

    ... How big a problem is this, really? Is this mainly a way for bean-counters to justify their existence in a time of cut-backs, when getting rid of just one of the obsessive twats would save significantly more in a month than the price of all the personal phone calls in a decade?

    It seems obvious to me that, as with almost anything else in the work environment, there will be a little bit of fiddling with this type of expense. In the main, it is healthy - it makes the employee feel like they are getting one over on the employer, and helps to diffuse the little niggles that build up which can affect performance. Only when it goes beyond "reasonable" (which always depends on the context, but is never zero or close to it) should words be spoken, and those should, in the first instance, be very gentle words. Any employer that does not see this is not fit to have employees.

  22. Carl Williams

    My company has an online tool

    That once a month we have to mark down any personal calls as I have my own handset and contract I always mark it as none and my phone get turned off or not answered out of hours.

    That and the facts that even GPRS data is disabled and it is a basic as you like Nokia mean that it only ever gets taken anywhere during the week.

    When I start my new job I'll be getting a Blackberry with 3G and although you are asked to keep personal calls to a mimimum they don't act like Nazis over them. Very much of the happy employee is a hard working employee ethos.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Give and take

    Here our group has an informal understanding that our phones are on 24x7x365, and we will answer them on a "best endevours" basis when they ring (or we see the READ ME!!!!! Crackberry light flashing). Which is what we do (and don't usually claim for overtime during the week). On the flip side they just pay the bills and don't hassle us. We used to be able to see our usage online, but that stopped some time back. I don't take the piss with personal calls, so it was never really above £20 a month.

    If I ever start getting grief about personal calls etc, then they can have the Blackberry back and I'll go and get myself something Android based, and they obviously won't be getting the number!

  24. Eddie Johnson

    Needs to Be Done

    It has nothing to do with the air time. You need to watch this just to catch the completely worthless employees who spend 2 hours or more a day on the phone making personal calls of a non-emergency nature. Like everything else, the mobile at work started out as a convenience for dealing with the odd issue that came up, then before you know it there are daily calls discussing the dinner menu, who said what to whom and countless other nonsense. I work with several people like this, all female for some odd reason.

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