While our smartphones provide us with a steady stream of interesting notifications, status updates, and cat photos, research shows we can overdose.
If you misuse your phone, it can make you less engaged at work, wreck your ability to recharge, and undermine your efforts to concentrate.
Here’s a look at the latest research:
Checking your phone at night makes you less productive the next day.
If you’re like most office workers, you probably spend your days in front of a desktop and your nights connected by phone. You check your phone as you make dinner to make sure your boss doesn’t need anything. You shoot off emails to colleagues as you lie in bed.
But a study conducted by University of Florida, Michigan State University, and University of Washington researchers suggests that late-night connectedness takes away from productivity the following morning. The more workers checked their phones at night, the less engaged they felt the next day.
“The benefit of smartphone use may … be offset by the inability of employees to fully recover from work activities while away from the office,” the researchers write.
Your colleagues won’t be able to detach unless you detach.
Organizational psychologists emphasise segmentation and detachment for mental health and long-term productivity. If your professional life is segmented, then you have a clear line between working hours and personal hours. If you’re experiencing detachment, then your mind is far from work. So in order to recharge — as the above study suggests — you need to detach, which requires segmenting your work and personal lives.
Bowling Green State University researcher YoungAh Park has found, your ability to segment your work and personal lives depends on what your peers do
. If your colleague is pinging you all night, you’ll ping her back. Conversely, if she keeps quiet between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., then you’ll be more likely to do the same.
Switching between your phone and other screens makes you dumber.
Neuroplasticity, the finding that our brains aren’t fixed into position and can change with our behaviour, is great if you spend your days in deep concentration, since you’ll get better at focusing. But it’s not so good if you’re flitting from thing to thing — like switching your attention from your phone to the television to the computer. Even if it feels like you’re focusing on one thing, your attention is getting thrown all over the place.
What are the effects? Instead of training our brains to study a problem in-depth like you would when reading a book, multitasking trains our brains to try to process a broad range of information all at once. So if you’re multitasking all the time, researchers have discovered that you won’t be able to concentrate at all, even when you’ve shut down every other screen.
“The people we talk with continually said, look, when I really have to concentrate, I turn off everything and I am laser-focused,” Stanford University professor Clifford Nass told NPR. “And unfortunately, they have developed habits of mind that make it impossible for them to be laser-focused. They’re suckers for irrelevancy. They just can’t keep on task.”