Your Smart Phone: Friend or Foe?

Smartphone obsession

Your work smartphone—love it or hate it—

It follows you everywhere.

Even home—on your time off.

For some, this means they never unplug from work.

For others, it’s a godsend, they’re happy using their phone after-hours.

We hear it’s bad for us to be available during our down time.

But not everyone agrees.

There are pros and cons to smartphone use after hours.

Which side are you on?

The Cons

Some staff feel on-call at home. It feels very intrusive. Their family time is interrupted. They don’t get down time to detach from work and they feel like they can’t recover from work stress because it never stops.

Kids complain to their parents about being on the phone talking about work.  A Manager, I worked with promised her children she wouldn’t take work calls, or emails on weekends. She was worried she wasn’t paying enough attention to them. She was tired and grumpy and they asked her why she had to work so much.

The Pros

Recent research shows, for some, using your smartphone to work after hours can promote wellbeing. Employees in this situation feel more satisfied because they can use their smartphone after hours to get things done.

They like checking to see if tasks are complete, instead of worrying all evening about loose ends. It gives them a chance to finish last minute “to-do’s” that pop up.

These folks like the flexibility. They feel more efficient. More in control and prepared. And they get a sense of completion that helps them detach, when they know everything is done.

A book keeper I worked with liked to use his smartphone to answer questions from colleague’s in the evening. This was especially true at year end.

But, there’s a difference, between employees who like to use their smartphones for work after-hours and others can’t stand it.

It comes down to choice.

Staff who feel they have the choice and it’s a real choice, feel positively. They feel free to use their phone, or not. They don’t suffer the fatigue, sleep or family interruption that others experience.

If staff don’t really have a choice and can’t decide how to manage their work during their off-hours, it’s not good. A banker I worked with was expected to answer emails in the evening. It was so he could prepare for meetings called at the last minute. He had to talk to his boss about the expectations. He was able to get more control of his workflow after that.

If staff are compelled to use their smart phones on off-hours they can come to resent it. It leads to burn out and disengagement.

Wherever possible, let staff decide when and if they’ll respond in their off-hours. Employees like to manage their workflow and feel control over their time.

And, if you do like using your phone after hours, be sure, whoever you send messages to after work also wants to receive them.

Dr. Jennifer Newman is a workplace psychologist and director of Newman Psychological and Consulting Services, an organizational coaching, training and development company.  Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.  She can be contacted at:

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