Smartphones are an integral part of day-to-day life for many of us. According to a study carried out by Deloitte, 85% of the UK population has one, 55% admit to checking it within 15 minutes of waking up and 39% think they use it too much — 13% of which confess to overusing it during work hours.
So it’s no surprise that many company bosses are against personal mobile phone use in the workplace, naturally assuming that employees will be distracted from the job at hand with interruptions from the outside world.
However, in reality, due to our increasing need to be in contact, employees are actually more distracted when they can’t have access to their phone, especially when it is out of charge.
Although personal phones should have nothing to do with the workplace, it’s worth acknowledging that 66% of people suffer from nomophobia (a form of anxiety created by being without a working mobile phone). As with all phobias, the condition can raise stress levels, affect concentration and distract from the task at hand, making it very much a workplace issue.
Here we take a look at our relationship with our smartphones and how it can affect productivity.
While it can be annoying to see employees surreptitiously texting under their desks, it’s worth understanding that nomophobia is an addiction of sorts. Even the lightest phone user can find themselves at sea without their mobile, especially if they are the main point of contact for a child at school or a dependent family member. Being uncontactable can be surprisingly stressful, and ultimately set the tone for the working day.
To that end, we carried out a piece of independent research to look further into how people use their phones. We asked the public: How do you react when your phone has low battery and you have no charger?
Here’s what we discovered:
These results highlight that phone users are undoubtedly distracted by a depleting phone battery, but do little to address the problem. Although attempting to conserve battery life can serve as a quick fix, it may prolong the issue by provoking the user to keep checking their phone hasn’t died. This presents a worry for employers, who may see a drop in productivity when their staff’s attention is not fully focused on work-related tasks.
The best way to determine the extent to which an individual is affected by nomophobia is by taking this test developed by Iowa State University. As with any kind of addiction, acknowledging that it’s a problem is often the first step so it may be worth distributing it among employees to determine the level of nomophobia in your office.
The solution to a depleting phone battery is obviously to charge it back up. However, as our survey revealed, only 13% of phone users think to take a phone charger with them when they leave the house. Even if an employee has their own charger in the office, this won’t necessarily relieve the issue as different phones require different charging cables. Long-term sharing of chargers could also create tension and resentment in the workplace.
The best way to meet ‘one-size-fits-all’ charging needs is to provide employees with wireless charging ports, on desks or in communal areas. This way employees — and visitors to the office — can instantly boost their phone battery while causing minimal distraction to the working day.
Although the only way to restore battery power is by charging the phone, it is possible to reduce the speed in which the battery depletes as a short-term solution. Almost half (43.7%) of our survey respondents admitted to relying on battery-saving hacks to conserve any remaining charge for as long as possible. Here are 10 of our favourites:
Aside from realising that nomophobia can be a real concern for employees, managers can further address the issue with these simple steps:
Offering provisions for employees to easily charge their phones will immediately remove any cause for anxiety. Factor in realistic guidelines as to when and where employees can access their phones during the working day and you’ll be well on your way to nurturing a connected yet productive workforce.