Can I stop employees using their mobile phones at work is a very common question we’re asked. Employers don’t need research to realise that phone interruptions affect productivity at work, but just in case they don’t realise how badly the effect is, we’ve found some interesting research.
Research shows that access to, and use of, personal mobile phones at work is significant. It causes
- A 48% impact on the quality of work produced
- A 38% reduction in morale of colleagues picking up the work of the those on their phones
- Missed deadlines (research suggests this is high as 27%)
- Up to as much as a 20% negative impact on relationships with clients
How many employees have personal mobiles at work?
Figures show that 8 out of 10 employees have smartphones that they bring to work. 82% of those with smartphones tell us that they keep their phone within eye contact at work for most of the time.
When asked, only 10% of those with smartphones in the workplace believed that it was affecting their productivity at work. We’ve already seen the evidence which shows that they’re wrong! Whatever they try to tell you they are significantly affecting their productivity.
How much time do employees spend on their personal mobiles at work?
A 2016 survey found that the average office employee spends 56 minutes every day using their mobile phone at work for non-work activity. That’s just under 5 hours per week, per employee. If you have ten employees, you’re losing 50 hours a week of time that you’re paying for. The equivalent of a full time employee being paid to do nothing! Or at least, a full time employee being paid to not do a very good job!
And, if the office is mostly comprised of younger workers, your situation is even worse! Employees aged between 18 and 34 spend up to 70 minutes a day on their phones during the working day. That’s almost 6 hours a week!!
What do employees do on their phones during your working time?
Career Builder surveyed employees who access their smartphone during work for non-work use. They found out that
- 65% send personal messages
- 51% are checking the weather
- 44% are finding out what’s going on in the world by checking the news
- 24% are playing games
- 24% are shopping
- 12% are checking the traffic news
- 7% are just gossiping
- 4% are accessing adult sites
- 3% are on dating sites
What’s the impact on your organisation of all this personal phone use at work?
It doesn’t make good reading!
Research shows that
- The quality of work produced by your employees can be negatively affected by up to 48%
- You’re likely to have 38% lower team morale because other workers are picking up the slack
- Your deadlines will be affected by as much as 27%
- You can expect to experience up to a 20% negative impact on client relationships
- There can by up to a 26% loss in revenue
Scientists confirm that the constant presence of a mobile phone has a “brain drain” effect on the user. The presence of the phone significantly reduces people’s intelligence and attention span to tasks they should be carrying out.
A University of Texas study showed that people only have to have their smartphone within their field of vision to make them worse at completing tasks and remembering information. Even if their phone is switched off but in their field of vision they can be negatively affected!
What’s the impact of mobile phones being kept in pockets of handbags?
Two experiments showed that if the phone was in a pocket or handbag it still had the ability to distract users and lead to worse test scores. This effect was there even when the phone was switched off or set on “do not disturb”! It goes without saying that the impact is worse the more dependent the employee is on their phone. Dr Adrian Ward, the lead author of the study, said “Although these devices have immense potential to improve welfare, their persistent presence may come at a cognitive cost. Even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention – as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones – the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capability.”
The study showed a 10 % lower score in completion of tasks which needed memory and focus than those who left their phones in a different room. Those who kept their phones out of sight in their pockets or their bags scored only slightly better than when phones were placed on desks.
When you’re considering the question, can I stop employees using their mobile phones at work? You may get comments from employees like “I can’t get through my day without checking my phone”, “using my mobile makes me feel happy”, take comfort from the research. These kinds of people perform just as well as others when their phone is in a different room but worse when the phone was just placed on their desk.
Does using a mobile phone at work affect an employee’s speed of work?
Yes. The Texas study showed that people who had their phone on their desk responded “more sluggishly” in fast tasks. What if the phone was turned off and placed face down? The phones were still a distraction. Those instructed to leave their phones outside the room “slightly outperformed” those with switched off devices.
Dr Ward says that “Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process – the process of requiring yourself not to think about something – uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”
Unless your employees have their mobile phones fully silenced or off, it’s probably still distracting them. The buzz buzz of a new notification is not as harmless as it seems! The buzzing makes employees wonder about the content or source of the message. So even if they’re waiting until their break time to respond, the fact that they’re aware of something waiting for them could be enough of a distraction to make them perform worse than they would had they not received a notification – 28% increase in errors in those that received phone calls and a 23% increase in errors for those receiving text messages.
Just allowing your employees to have their phone near them at work can distract them and negatively affect their work performance.
Whether you want to increase productivity, reduce error rates, improve team relationships, the evidence would suggest that instructing your employees to switch their phones off and leave them in their bag, their drawer will help. If employees can’t hear, see or feel notifications they will perform better at work.
So, can I stop employees using their mobile phones at work?
How you stop employees using their mobile phones at work is an important consideration, but consider this. If you’re losing 5 hours a week per employee allowing them to have their mobile phones with them, giving them an extra day’s holiday a year to keep their phone out of the workplace will still see you reaping a number of significant improvements.
If you are grappling with the questions “Can I stop employees using their mobile phones at work?” give us a call on 01706 565332 or fill in our contact form to arrange a confidential, no obligation initial free discussion.