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Is being able to charge your phone at work a human right?

Yesterday I was reading in the Telegraph about the officers and civilian staff at Sussex Police who have recently been instructed not to charge their personal phones (and other related devices) at work.

On the face of it, there’s a reasonable argument — over to the Telegraph post:

The force must find £50 million worth of savings from its overall budget by 2015 and has already cut energy bills by 10 per cent.

I presume that someone has done the calculations — I wonder just how much money this policy would save? What is the cost of charging an iPhone for an hour? It must cost a few pence. This will add up if you take into account daily usage across the year — and thousands of people doing it?

At all the different offices I’ve worked at over the years, I’ve never once been told to ‘charge my personal devices at home’. Occasionally where it was warranted, I’ve asked permission, only to get a ‘well, duh, of course’ response every time. Even going to a friend’s house, I don’t think I’d even think twice about the *cost* of charging. I’d ask permission but I’d only be doing that out of politeness.

Being able to charge your phone (for free) is, I think, a basic requirement for everyone. It’s perhaps not a ‘human right’ — but it’s a seriously important one, especially in today’s connected environment and especially when safety (or, at least, the illusion of safety) is linked to that connectivity. And, even more so if you’ve got a recent smartphone that comes with wholly unsuitable battery performance.

I’ve no idea how much this stuff costs but let’s do a worked example on cost. Assume it costs £0.05 to charge your phone. Multiply that by 20 business days a month and that’s £1.00 per month. Or £12 per year.

I wonder if I’d be prepared to see a quid-a-month docked from my pay packet to cover my personal electricity costs?

Possibly. I’d certainly prefer the option.

But then how far do you go? You see I expect personal charging to be ‘thrown in’ as part of the deal. Well, normally, I don’t even think about it. So, should I also have to contribute £20 per month to ensure clean toilets? Or parking?

Parking’s a bit of a tray area isn’t it? I know some employers who do factor this into a pay package. Or who offer incentives for employees *not* to drive, to a) keep parking spaces available and b) add a nice paragraph to their Corporate Social Responsibility section in their annual report.

Thinking about it, I don’t know if many companies I’ve worked at actually had a ‘electricity for personal uses’ policy. I never bothered to check. Nobody has ever screamed at me for using an extra power socket. No one has demanded money for it. No one has screamed about how much money they’re losing in extra unnecessary costs.

I’m happy to be educated in this regard. Generally speaking I’ve only ever worked for large corporates (who factor the electrical cost into business-as-usual expenditure) or small outfits who’d never question it.

Does your company prohibit you from using electricity for charging your phone?

And have I got things all wrong? Is it more than 5p to charge a phone? Have I missed something?

It looks to me like the only thing Sussex Police are doing with this policy is seriously winding up their employees. How are they going to enforce it?

One possible solution: Take a one time capital expenditure hit and buy every employee a Proporta-style pocket charger (examples at Amazon) with instructions to charge it up at home. That might be equitable!

Update: I was just looking at Amazon some more — maybe what everyone at Sussex needs is a £3.45 wind-up pocket charger:


  1. I doubt very much that this policy will make any dent in the £50m ‘savings’. It looks much more like a form of internal gesture politics. “Things must be really bad, we’re not even allowed to charge our phones at work.” I’ve seen this tactic deployed in the past as a mechanism to ‘get the message’ through to employees about saving money. In reality, it makes management look petty and merely acts as another irritant to the work force. It’s very counter productive.

  2. I am going to go another way with this. I think this policy needs to be much more widespread. And then e response to manufacturers and carriers is that if your mobile can’t go at least 2 business days on a charge with normal (connected) use, then those mobiles are sold.

    Such a policy would:
    – push personal power/generator technologies
    – lead to larger devices by default
    – lead to personal device/BYOC policies which keep devices either off the network, or leverage wireless charging tech to keep the devices usable when they are on that network

    What can I say, I see such things as opportunities to be taken on, not run away from 😉

  3. This works both ways, what about employees who spend most of their time out and about (I assume the police force have a fair few of these) What about their work issued devices? do they charge them at home? Or do they now return to the office at the end of the shift to plug in their devices and pick them up the next morning?

    I’m sure the loss productivity from that more than outweighs the savings on charging personal devices? Not to mention all it take is one device to go missing when left at the office to charge and you’ve wiped out any savings for a couple of years!

    Employers often forget that if they start to impose petty little rules on staff then the staff can find just as many petty little things that work the other way, in the end everybody looses…


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