Smartphones in the workplace

I love it when I come across research that backs up my view of the world.

I am continually amazed that so many people in the workplace feel the need to have their phone beside them at their desk. If it’s not required for work purposes it seems to me that it is a constant distraction seriously affecting concentration and customer focus.

And here’s a study that backs up this view. According to a psychological experiment by the Universities of Würzburg and Nottingham Trent in 2016, commissioned by Kaspersky Lab, people are 26 percent more productive at work without their smartphones. While smartphones help workers stay in touch with colleagues, keep on top of email inboxes, and complete urgent tasks on the move, they actually make them less productive when working at their desks.

The experiment involved setting 95 people a concentration task. Some were asked to leave their phone in their pocket, others to place it on the desk, some had their phone locked in a drawer and others had their phones removed from the room entirely.

The results are significant – test results were lowest when the smartphone was on the desk, but with every additional layer of distance between participants and their smartphones, test performance increased. Overall, test results were 26 percent higher when phones were removed from the room.

Contrary to expectations, the absence of the smartphone didn’t make participants nervous. Anxiety levels were consistent across all experiments.

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

“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.

Do you have a policy about the use of mobile phones at work? If not, is it time you had a conversation about this and agree upon some guidelines?

Visual courtesy of Shutterstock

Source: Kaspersky Lab research

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Jurek Leon is a storyteller, speaker and trainer. Subscribe to Jurek's FREE monthly 'Terrific Tips' e-newsletter at Alternatively, email