In an ideal situation, we would use our smartphones to complete work during time that would normally be wasted, making us more productive in the time that we have. But new research shows that the smartphone use at night makes it difficult for employees to recover from work activities while away from the office, making workers less effective during the work day.
The time between work and rest is where we form some of our most important ideas. The problem is that we need to turn off to generate that, and smartphones have created a culture in which we expect constant connectivity. We demand immediate responses to our questions, and in turn we set the standard that we too will provide that same immediacy. Apply that to work emails, and most people come into the office already feeling over-extended by 9:30 am.
In her book, Sleeping With Your Smartphone, Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow studied executives at Boston Consulting Group who were given a chance to disconnect on a regular basis. The executives became more excited about their work, felt more satisfied about their professional and personal lives, and even became more collaborative and efficient.
Studies conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, Michigan State University, and the University of Washington found that people who used smartphones and other technology to work during the evening got fewer hours of sleep, had less self-control, and felt less engaged during the day—a recipe for poorer work in the office.
The fix, researchers say, is to put down the phone and enjoy the evening. But it is hard to control that balance between using smartphones to help us to be more productive but then knowing to accept when the job is done. Barnes says real change will have to come from the top—adjusting expectations and setting an example for work-life balance.