This change was implemented in January. The policy, among others, was outlined in a 2017 letter from Barra, who champions comprehensive safety measures. While putting down the phone is common practice in warehouses and manufacturing facilities, office workers are now required to follow suit.
As Fast Company reports, Jim Glynn, GM’s vice president of Global Workplace Safety, said that the new policy eliminates potential hazards. Walking and texting (or walking while talking) can divert an employee’s attention away from their environment.
Some studies suggest that while workers increasingly use their smartphones, they may be distracted by texting and accessing the internet. Employees can lose hours per day by using their smartphones instead of working, according to the 2016 Career Builder and Harris Poll.
Another study from the University of Texas at Austin suggested that the mere presence of a smartphone reduces “brain power.” The researchers discovered that an individual’s cognitive capacity is reduced when a smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off.
While some CEOs and companies are eliminating smartphone use to boost workplace productivity, GM is implementing its ban to solely increase safety. In addition to the new policy, employees are “strongly encouraged” to attend walking tours once a month, in which they walk around the facility or office and identify ways to improve physical safety.