There’s no denying mobile devices have made our working lives easier, but new research shows how we use our devices during office hours may be hindering our productivity.
A recent survey of over 1,000 employed adults in the U.S. showed three out of four workers (76%) check personal mail during work hours, three out of five (61%) take personal calls, one in three (35%) post to social media accounts, and the same number play games.
“There are no boundaries anymore [between work and personal space],” says Terrie Campbell, vice president of Strategic Marketing at Ricoh Americas Corporation, the company that conducted the study.
Although technology is supposed to make our working lives more productive, the results of the survey show workers are spending at least some of their time at work not working. While we need to be connected to devices for work, we’re also a click away from alluring distractions from our personal lives like Facebook, Twitter, and Angry Birds. Campbell calls this blurring of the personal and the professional lines the “connectivity conundrum.”
Those of us who recall the days before smartphones may remember when taking a phone call from a friend or family member during work hours was considered taboo. Yet today most of us don’t think twice about responding to a personal text or email during a meeting.
A possible explanation for this collision between work and personal space, Campbell says, is a change in expectations. As employers increasingly expect workers to respond to business emails during personal time, employees see themselves as able to do things typically considered personal activities during work time. “Being required to work on vacation is the flip side to wanting to be connected to your personal life while at work,” says Campbell.
The connectivity conundrum isn’t necessarily a bad thing, says Campbell. Having the ability to check in with family or friends during work hours may help employees to relax and cause less interference with their work since they’re not constantly wondering and worrying about what’s happening at home. For some, playing Candy Crush on their iPhone may be just what they need to do to relax so they can come back to a work task that requires extreme focus with a renewed energy.
Still, Campbell says, the bleeding of work and professional lives through mobile devices can pose a challenge to businesses and may in fact interfere with worker productivity. She advises managers to follow these four simple guidelines to protect their workplaces from becoming a casualty of the connectivity conundrum:
1. Don’t Avoid It. Campbell recommends managers have an open dialogue with employees about tech distractions. Acknowledge their existence and discuss challenges they pose in the workplace.
2. Set Expectations.Clarify your performance guidelines and define your company’s work/life balance policy.
3. Measure Results Measuring employee productivity is the best way to highlight whether technology has become a distraction that is causing the organization to be less effective. While we might assume that someone who is seen playing games on their phone while sitting at their desk is slacking and dragging down the team, it could be that the person was up late last night finishing a work project and needs a quick break to refocus.
4. Re-Evaluate Company Culture. Create a company culture that’s as appealing as the distractions. Ensuring employees are stimulated at work can help reduce the desire to reach out for tech distractions.