Back To Career News

Smartphones in the Workplace: Productivity Tool or Time Suck?


Forty-five percent of American adults owned a smartphone as of 2013, according to EdTech Magazine. Used well, these devices can make your personal and professional life easier — provided you have good boundaries and can disconnect when you need to.


(Photo credit: kelseyannvere/Pixabay)

Our connection with our smartphones may be affecting us in ways that we don’t even fully realize. Here are just a few of the side effects of our addiction.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

1. Lack of Sleep.

In a study by the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, researchers found a correlation between the use of smartphones in the late evening and poor sleep, which subsequently affected work performance. In fact, further research showed that smartphone use affected the worker even more than the use of other electronics (computers, tablets, and TV).

2. Phantom Vibration Syndrome.

If you’ve ever checked your phone because you thought it had vibrated — only to discover that you imagined it — you’re not alone. 

“There’s a growing body of research on phantom vibrations and many of the other problems associated with technology obsession,” writes Patrick Thibodeau at Computerworld. Thibodeau points out that interacting with our devices can encourage symptoms consistent with depression, mania, and anxiety.

If you’re wondering how this compulsion could possibly affect the workplace, take a look around your office and see how many of your colleagues check their smartphones every five minutes — even in meetings.

3. Information Deprivation Disorder.

If those phantom vibrations weren’t bad enough, studies conducted by Dr Roman Gerodimos indicate that cutting off access to smartphones and other devices leads to physical and psychological symptoms. We go through withdrawal, which seems to suggest that we’ve become so dependent on those devices that we don’t want to live without them.

4. Productivity.

One of the biggest issues in the workplace is the hit that productivity takes, when workers use smartphones.

“In fact, half of employers said that cell phone use, including texting, was the main drag on productivity in the workplace. Many workers seemed to lend some credibility to this notion, with a full 24 percent admitting that they’ll spend at least an hour a day on personal calls, emails and text messages,” according to Kim Peterson at CBS MoneyWatch.

With the possibility of distraction and endless possibilities for entertainment, it’s not really surprising that many employees simply ban smartphone usage in the workplace. But, there’s also the reality that many employees also use their smartphone for productive and timely pursuits, that also happen to be directly related to the job. You can quickly reference your contacts, access a digital file from the cloud, run a quick search on the topic of discussion, track your time, monitor your task list, and set an alarm — so you’ll never be late for a meeting again.

In short, smartphones are tools, and like any tool, they’ll never be any better or worse than the way they’re used.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you distracted by your smartphone at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Esther Lombardi
Read more from Esther

Leave a Reply

1 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors
Carl Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

One is employed to work. One is not employed to surf the web while working. Put down the smartphone, concentrate on the job, complete the work and then go home – at which point you can use the smartphone as much as you’re little heart desire’s. I have seen first hand the detrimental impact that these smartphones have on workplace productivity. They distract people while working and as a consequence more mistakes get made. They shift focus from the job… Read more »

What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.