The Pros and Cons of Smartphone Use in the Workplace
Smartphones are here to stay and affect our everyday lives. As of 2015, 92% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 own a smartphone, and so do 65% of adults over 35 years old. From Millennials to Baby Boomers, people are utilizing their phones to stay connected, but how does that usage affect your workplace?
Depending on what kind of work environment you want to foster as an employer or join as an employee, you need to consider the positives and negatives of smartphone use in the workplace. Is banning phones the right move for businesses, or should employers be more lenient? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Cons of Smartphone Use at Work
First, we’ll go over some of the most common negatives that surround the usage of smartphones at work.
Workers Can Get Distracted by Smartphones
Small interruptions, like peeking at a smartphone screen or turning off your ringer, have a large effect on people’s ability to complete a task. According to a study published by Michigan State University, interruptions of only 2.8 seconds can double the rate of error in sequence-based tasks like filling out a form or inputting data. Seemingly minor distractions with your smartphone, from answering a text to glancing at a meme on Facebook, can have potentially disastrous consequences.
You don’t even have to look at the phone to be distracted either. Just receiving a text message or call is enough to cause a significant distraction. A test conducted by Cary Stothart, Ainsley Mitchum, and Courtney Yehnert of Florida State University found that just being aware of receiving a text or call can significantly decrease accuracy when performing a sequence-based task. The error rate increased by 28% for those that received a phone call and 25% for those who received a text message. Whether employees answer their phone or not, they are still getting distracted by their smartphone.
Digital Distractions Can Decrease Productivity
Distracted workers lead to reduced productivity. A survey conducted by harmon.ie looked at 500 people employed by businesses in the United States and estimated that companies with more than 1,000 employees lose about $10 million a year through decreased productivity caused by digital distractions. How could a handful of seemingly small distractions have such a high cost?
According to a study conducted by Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, the average office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption. Not only are employees getting regularly distracted, but it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back to the original task after being interrupted. It’s this cycle of continuous distraction and refocus that costs employers valuable time and money.
BYOD Can be a Security Risk
With the influx of smartphone users, many workplaces are becoming BYOD (bring your own device) friendly. While this may save companies money, it also opens a security risk. Letting workers store sensitive data on their own smartphones can be problematic. What happens if an employee uses their smartphone for work, but it gets lost, stolen, or infected with malware?
Companies have far less control over devices they don’t own, making it easier for sensitive data to be compromised. While most companies that issue devices have a smartphone workplace policy specific to those devices, it’s a lot harder for IT to tell users what is and is not acceptable on their personal smartphones. When an employee leaves the company, the phone goes with them, leaving the business unable to retain the sensitive data if the proper security measures haven’t been put into place.
Pros of Smartphone Use at Work
Now, let’s explore the positives of smartphones in the workplace. There are some contrasting viewpoints, but it’s important to keep an open mind and consider what type of work environment is best for you.
Mental Breaks Improve Mood
It may be hard to believe, but allowing employees to take quick phone breaks to send calls, texts, and check social media can lead to increased productivity and customer service. Why? Because they are happier. According to Sooyeol Kim, a doctoral student in psychological sciences at Kansas State University, taking small ‘mircobreaks’ on your phone can actually be good for business rather than distracting.
After studying 72 full-time workers from various industries, it was discovered that employees on average spend only 22 minutes out of an eight-hour workday on their phone. Employees who had taken smartphone breaks reported that they were happier than those that did not. Taking a break is important, as it’s difficult to concentrate for eight straight hours. Small breaks can be beneficial for employee positivity and productivity.
Smartphone Apps Can Increase Productivity
Want to take notes, have a group chat, or email a report? There’s an app for that. Smartphone apps like Skype, Tango, and Google Hangouts allow employees to easily get in contact with other employees and customers. They also allow employees to take part in video conferencing, which is a popular mode of communication for companies that have offices in different locations.
Employees can also easily share documents electronically with apps like Dropbox, or create and edit documents with Google Docs and Google Sheets on the go. Smartphones can give companies a competitive edge by allowing workers the ability to stay connected, share information, and respond quickly to new events.
Smartphones Help with Working on the Go
With the ability to share information and stay connected wirelessly, employees can now work from home or on the road more efficiently than ever before. For example, say a sales rep is traveling to meet with a customer via public transportation. Using their smartphone, the sales rep could continue taking orders, responding to emails, and answering customer service questions while in transit.
The ability to stay connected with smartphones allows employees to respond faster to customers. If your business prides itself on being available 24/7, having your team equipped with smartphones could enable them to provide quicker response times, which lead to greater customer satisfaction, referrals, and sales.
BYOD Can Save Money
Allowing employees to bring their own devices to work saves companies money. The average user spends about $965 on their device as well as $734 on data plans. This cost has now moved from the company to the employee. The cost of keeping the phone up-to-date by replacing it periodically is also the employee's responsibility, eliminating the cost for the company entirely. By implementing community support boards, wikis, forums, and other support options, companies can cut additional costs on support and training for the device. There is also the fact that employees prefer to use their own device, with 83% saying their phone is more important than their morning cup of coffee.
The Smart Conclusion: Focus on Work
In the end, a smartphone is a tool that is only as useful or detrimental as users allow it to be. For employers, the takeaway is to do what’s best for your business. Smartphones allow your employees to stay connected, respond to information quickly, and be a little happier, but they can be a distraction. Depending on your company and who your ideal candidate is, you should consider how you let your employees utilize their phones in the workplace. To give your employees guidelines to follow, implement a smartphone workplace policy and adjust it accordingly.
For employees, work comes first. As we’ve examined, smartphones can be an aid, but they can also be a distraction. If your employer is against smartphone use at work, then it’s your responsibility to follow the rules. If you feel that a particular app or procedure could benefit your workplace, speak to your boss or manager and get their approval before using it.
Looking for ideal candidates who can use technology effectively? J & J Staffing can help you find the right talent for your workforce if you get in touch with us.