WORK-LIFE BALANCE / SEP. 17, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Smartphones Cause Workplace Anxiety

smartphone at work
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Have you ever felt anxious when picking up your phone to check your notifications? Have you ever gotten to the point where you left or misplaced your phone and almost had a panic attack while at work?

I’m more than certain that we’ve all gone through this scenario at one point.

Sometimes it feels as though you’re disconnected from the world or from life in general when your phone is not within reach—and for some smartphone users, this seems to be the case. 

2012 survey by The British Psychological Society (BPS) determined that smartphones could be detrimental to a person’s stress and anxiety levels, especially while at work.

Over the years, stress from constant smartphone usage has become a conflict for many people across the globe, but phone calls outside the workplace has also been a nuisance.

One European employment minister is now taking action to reverse this problem.

The Study

BPS’ observations determined that stress levels are not completely associated with professional purposes, but rather personal usage.

The culprit that is causing this trend is Web-enabled cell phones and smartphones.

The group described how the “relentless need to immediately review and respond to each and every incoming message” from social media, text messaging, or emails is causing unnecessary anxiety.

BPS surveyed a total of 100 retail employees, college students, and public-sector workers.

A stress test discovered that most iPhone and Android users invest in a phone to manage their workload, however, this leads to a distraction for most people.

Instead of using a phone for work-related purposes, people will tend to become decoyed by social media interaction while updating statuses and communicating with friends or family. 

English Author and University of Worcester Psychologist Richard Balding said smartphones usually help most people “cope with different aspects of life,” but also makes a person “dependent upon them, and actually courting stress instead of relieving it.” 

Phantom Alerts, Annoying Calls 

As already stated before, the constant need to be engaged or connected to the world while at work can take a toll on a person’s mental state.

The study also mentioned how smartphone addicts can go through a phase of phantom experiences. Meaning, they would think their phone is vibrating or ringing when it’s actually not (I’m guilty of this!). 

However, for some employees in high-demand, there is a legitimate reason for this paranoia.

Depending on the circumstances of the job, employers tend to contact their workers outside work during their days off or while they’re on vacation.

Thus, people experience even more anxiety outside the office because it feels like they never can get away from their work life to find time to relax. 

This can create extreme tension, uncontrollable compulsive behavior, and resentment towards the phone or the job itself.

An Anti-Stress Law May be the Solution

Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Andrea Nahles is really taking the initiative to ensure that German workers are not succumbing to stress caused by pestering employers.

In response to a “relationship between constant availability and the increase of mental illness,” the minister proposed an “anti-stress” law as a way to prohibit German companies from contacting workers during off hours.

Several businesses across Germany have already set workplace rules in which supervisors are not allow to contact workers when their off the clock or on vacation time.

However, Nahles wants to make this a law that everyone will be required to abide by moving forward.

Maybe her actions will eventually set an example for lawmakers across the world.

What it honestly comes down to is this: Employers should respect their employees’ space while away from work and should encourage them to avoid using their phones while at work. Employees will also have to do their part by reducing the amount of time they check their phone for unrelated work purposes.

As once stated by Balding:

“Organizations will not flourish if their employees are stressed, irrespective of the source of stress, so it is in their interest to encourage their employees to switch their phones off; cut the number of work emails sent out of hours, reduce people’s temptation to check their devices.”

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