Smartphones have been an excellent innovation that has improved our lives in so many ways. From being able to access email on the move, to using apps to help us with anything from losing weight to hailing a taxi, to meditating in any situation, smartphones have certainly added value for many people. In particular, smartphones have created the possibility of more flexible ways of working, and this is hugely beneficial to many. However, the new technology has also created some unforeseen disadvantages. One of these is stress that a person may not have been faced with before they had their smartphone tucked in their back pocket or hand bag. In reportage on the BBC website, Matthew Wall (2014) exposed some of the problems that are created by smartphones. The main one of these was identified by Wall as having an “always on” type of stress, created by the smartphone.
The “always on” stress fundamentally is being caused by the fact that people are always connected. There is no escaping work or stressful situations in the way that it was possible to do in the past. Rather, people are connected all of the time – even when they are supposed to be on holiday or otherwise relaxing. In 2012, Arnold Bakker, a professor of work and organisational psychology at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, showed that heavy smartphone use caused more “work-home interference”, which means, work ubiquituously present in our home environment.
The big issue here is that humans seem to have become attached to our smartphones. They are useful not only for work but for entertainment.
Many of us feel guilty of not checking work emails while on annual leave. Others might stress out when going away for the weekend somewhere remote and find that there is a lack of 3G coverage in the area. We all know the feeling of becoming anxious if our phone battery gets close to dying and there is no way to charge it. These kinds of signs are now considered by some to indicate addiction to smartphones. Such people find that as a result of their smartphones there are unable to truly switch off and relax.
How to deal with smartphone obsession ?
You may be glad to know there is now an app that helps people to handle this smartphone obsession. Kevin Holesh because he was so concerned about how much he was using his smartphone. The app is named “Moment” and it provides its users with the opportunity of monitoring how much time they spend using their phone. It also allows these users to put in place limits to usage, and the app will then warn them if they go past their own limits for usage. The concept behind this is to try to help people regain a sense of reality regarding how much they are using their phone and enable them to set their smartphones aside and relax properly. Moment’s goal is to promote balance in your life. The app is designed to be. Once it is set up it keeps running in the background, and you won’t ever have to open the app again.
Smartphones and productivity
Despite all this connectivity there are few quantifiable benefits for business. He explains that a report by PwC showed that in the UK people are not much more productive than in the past, despite the accessibility of email via smartphones. That is because checking email is not necessarily a particularly productive activity. Wall argues that we think it is, but in reality it is not. That means if you are checking email outside of work, you are not necessarily adding value to your employer by doing so. In addition to this, employers that encourage this activity may find themselves falling foul of the Working Time Directive according to Wall. That is because the Directive dictates no more than 48 working hours a week and an 11 hour break in every 24 hours. Clearly those that check emails in the morning and before bed for 20 minutes or half an hour each time add a large number of hours to their working week quite quickly.
The crucial question to ask is if the messages one receives daily are really important. As Clive Jones writes in an article for MotherJones: “Genuinely important emails can propel productive work, no doubt, but a lot of messages aren’t like that-they’re incessant check-ins asking non-crucial questions, or bulk-CCing of everybody on a team. They amount to a sort of Kabuki performance of work-one that stresses everyone out while accomplishing little.”
Of course, the problem with continually checking your phone for work out of hours is that you are never truly switching off from work. This lack of relaxation and down time can have a negative influence over health, as people need rest in order to stay healthy and alert. The solution seems to be quite easy: put your telephone out of reach when you go to bed, and switching it off. And when you go on holiday, put an “out of office” on.
If you are rested and relaxed, you will be more productive and creative. You will be able to offer more to your organisation, and your stress levels will reduce significantly.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.