This piece was contributed by Gerad Hoyt of docSTAR, a firm specalizing in document management and business efficiency. Follow docSTAR on Twitter (@docstarsoftware).
Many employers have opted to provide their employees with mobile devices and tablets in order to stay connected and organized while in the office and on the go. With the ever growing pool of smart phone applications and increased effectiveness of communication in a handheld device, we see how easy it is to become more efficient by the touch of your finger.
These perks aren’t just seen in a fast paced environment of the business world either. Even farmers are getting into the game — in the article ‘Farming the “Smart” Way’ describes how his laptop can save him much time, effort and money; instead of travelling hundreds of miles to bid on cattle, he can place his offer remotely from his property. Another explains the process of monitoring sprinklers on the other side of their land can be almost effortless. Regardless of the industry, mobile technology seems to be a paramount factor of success and finally a study proves it.
Researchers Don J.Q.Chen and Vivien K.G.Lim completed a study testing the productivity of 3 groups students who were given different tasks. The study started off with each group having to complete the tedious task of underlining every “e” they came across in a 3,500 word article. Next, one group was told to bundle sticks into groups of 5, a second group was told to do anything that did not involve the internet (such as phone calls, bathroom breaks, text messaging, etc.), and the third group was allowed to surf the internet and engage in social networking, news, etc. After 10 minutes of these activities, the subjects were asked to underline each “a” they found in an article containing 2,000 words. The result of this experiment showed those in the first group, who continued to use their brain doing tedious tasks, were 39% less productive in the post test than those who surfed the web, and showed a higher level of boredom and mental exhaustion.
While having almost limitless connectivity seems great, at what point does this connectivity become detrimental? Sure it may make things easier while on the job, but what about when it’s time to go home and recuperate for the next busy day? Is it really possible to do such a thing while always being connected? Emails are constantly being sent from international clients, a co-worker may need to reschedule the morning meeting, etc. When do you get a break? Is there a dark side to mobile?
Within the report The Well-Being of the Mobile Workforce (Dr.Caroline Axtell, Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield, UK), it was found that our ability to be contacted anywhere, anytime can and at times does have a detrimental effect on employee well being. The demands and stresses of this can also have an impact on relationships with family and significant others.
Excessive hours are a large reason for impact on relationships. The study found 47% of respondents who worked 5-10 extra hours a week, and 26% worked an extra 15-20 hours. Many were found to be working in nearly every spare moment, causing a complete disruption in their work-life balance. A deeper dive into this data found this experience of working in spare moments to be driven primarily from pressure and expectations from others. For instance, 32% of those working 15-20 extra hours reported that they stayed connected to their technology during vacation because of external pressures.
While this data is alarming, its not all doom and gloom. 64% of those surveyed said they felt they were able to better balance their workload with personal commitments. Pluses such as the ability to use dead time like commuting or waiting for flights as well as the greater flexibility gained from mobile technology also were cited in contributing to better performance and more satisfaction in work.
So does mobile really equal increased productivity or is it a detriment? The truth lies somewhere in the middle ground and the ability to maximize the good and minimize the “dark side”. To get the full benefit without the negative focus on:
- Detaching from work – Development of a strong separation of work and home is a key in ensuring that mobile doesn’t make work take over your life.
- Plan time for relaxation that can’t invaded by technology – Just as mobile technology can help improve productivity by serving as a break up of monotonous activity, it can be become a determinant if not kept in check
Follow these steps and you’ll be on a path to get the most from your mobile technology and maintaining an approprate work-life balance.