News: Personal smartphone use at work reduces stress levels: Study

Culture

Personal smartphone use at work reduces stress levels: Study

The study underscores the potential benefits of using smartphones moderately at work. However, it suggests that such usage doesn’t significantly impact employee performance.
Personal smartphone use at work reduces stress levels: Study

The truth is, for most of us, smartphones have become an indispensable part of daily life, often used during lunch breaks or slower workdays. However, a recent study sheds light on the positive side of using smartphones at work. Personal use of smartphones in the workplace has been found to alleviate stress and contribute to a healthier work-life balance for employees.

Led by Professor Eoin Whelan at the University of Galway’s J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, the research highlights the potential advantages of moderate smartphone usage at work. Interestingly, it indicates no noticeable impact on employee performance.

In the 1990s, a pharmaceutical company initially prohibited personal phone use due to safety concerns, especially regarding potential distractions while working around hazardous chemicals. However, employees expressed dissatisfaction with this ban, feeling disconnected from the world.

Moreover, senior management sensed that this restriction portrayed the branch as technophobic, affecting competitiveness against other branches within the company. Initially, only senior management had permission to bring personal phones to work.

During the study, approximately 40 employees were observed over a year as they utilised their personal smartphones under the new relaxed policy. Meanwhile, an equal number of staff members self-imposed a ban, leaving their phones behind while at work.

Qualitative interviews provided valuable insights. The study's key findings include:

  • Work performance did not suffer after lifting the smartphone ban, despite concerns about distraction.
  • Employees with phone access reported a significant reduction in the perceived conflict between work and personal life.
  • Access to phones allowed employees to assist with family matters during the day, alleviating pressure on their partners.
  • Spreading personal communications throughout the day helped employees manage their messages, preventing post-work overwhelm.

While previous research focused on work-related communications outside the workplace, this study centred on personal communications within the office. The involved universities consider these findings groundbreaking, offering practical insights for organisations aiming to foster a balanced work environment.

Lead researcher Prof Whelan suggests establishing clear expectations for smartphone use in the workplace instead of enforcing a ban. This involves setting boundaries, such as prohibiting phone use in meetings or the cafeteria, with employees monitoring adherence themselves. Managers must understand the unintended consequences of imposing a smartphone ban.

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Topics: Culture, #Wellbeing, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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