Smartphones reduce productivity says a study


Performance is directly proportional to the distance between smartphone and the worker.

Most people agree that smartphones have made their lives and jobs easier. They help them stay connected with their colleagues 24×7. There is another section of people that feels smartphones have affected their work–life balance and as a result, they often end up carrying work home.

However, if we ignore this debate, it is quite interesting to observe how smartphones are affecting the workplace. According to a new psychological experiment by the Universities of Würzburg and Nottingham Trent, commissioned by Kaspersky Lab, smartphones actually eat into productivity.

The experiment discovered a correlation between productivity levels and the distance between participants and their smartphones.

When their smartphones were taken away, participants’ performance improved by 26 per cent. The experiment tested the behaviour of 95 persons between 19 and 56 years of age, in the laboratories of the said universities.

The participants of the survey were asked to perform a concentration test under four different circumstances: with their smartphones in their pockets, on their desks, locked in a drawer and removed from the room alogether.

Test results were 26 per cent higher when phones were removed from the room than when they were kept on the desks. The research revealed that the test results improved as and when phones were moved away from the desks.

What’s interesting is that there were no signs of nervousness among participants as the phones were taken away from them and anxiety levels were consistent across all experiments.

However, in general, women were more anxious than their male counterparts, leading researchers to conclude that anxiety levels at work are not affected by the presence of absence of smartphones, but may be impacted by gender.

“Previous studies have shown that while on the one hand, separation from one’s smartphone has negative emotional effects, such as increased anxiety, on the other hand, one’s smartphone may act as a distractor when present. In other words, both the absence and presence of a smartphone could impair concentration”, says Jens Binder from the University of Nottingham Trent.

“In summary, our findings from this study indicate that it is the absence, rather than the presence, of a smartphone that improves concentration,” adds Astrid Carolus from the University of Würzburg.

The results of the experiment correlate with the findings of an earlier survey, named ‘Digital Amnesia at Work’. In this survey, Kaspersky Lab demonstrated that digital devices can have a negative impact on concentration levels. It showed, for example, that typing notes into digital devices during meetings lowers the level of understanding of what is actually happening in the meeting.

So what’s the way out for organisations? A complete ban can never be a possibility. However, as someone says, “Instead of expecting permanent access to their smartphones, employee productivity might be boosted if they have dedicated ‘smartphone-free’ time.”

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