Are Smartphones Making Us Less Productive?

The Wall Street Journal

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It may seem counter-intuitive, but new research indicates that using your phone to catch up on work during the evening may actually hurt your overall productivity by making you less alert the next day. In short: working all the time may mean we're actually getting less done.

Researchers at the University of Florida, Michigan State University, and University of Washington conducted two studies on both managers and lower level employees to determine the impact of constant access to work on restfulness that night and productivity the next day.

Here are some of the most interesting findings:

In the first study, 82 mid- to high-level managers were asked every morning how many minutes they used their smartphone after 9:00 pm the night before and how many hours they slept. Then, they were asked to rate their agreement with statements like “I feel drained” and “Right now, it would take a lot of effort for me to concentrate on something.” ... After accounting for sleep quality, the researchers found that work-related smartphone use in the evening was associated with fewer hours of sleep. The subjects who recorded shorter nights also reported depleted reserves of self-control, and those who felt morning exhaustion also indicated they were less engaged during the day, a domino effect that shows how an unending workday ultimately leads to poorer work.

So how do we change this habit? The researchers suggested managers should set a different tone and not expect instant responses to emails at all hours of the day and night. In addition, just turning off devices and focusing on other things may help. The initial study showed that smartphone screen time even 30 minutes before bed had an adverse effect on sleep, so it sounds like a 30 minute break might be a good place to start.

To read more, check out the full article on the Wall Street Journal.

(Image credits: jesadaphorn/Shutterstock)

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Liz is a writer and filmmaker from Minneapolis. She was nominated for a Webby and won an Emmy for Science of Watchmen, a documentary short about the physics in the comic book movie. She’s a tech obsessive, verified nerd and total Anglophile.

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