I should probably begin this blog by saying that I do like my smartphone. It’s a tremendous device that allows me to do an awful lot of productive things whilst on the move. Whether it’s checking my rss feeds, updating Twitter or of course, making a phone call.
By and large, they’re a tremendous source of good. There are however some pretty significant down sides to our increasing smartphone usage. I wrote recently for instance about the way they are impinging on our ability to communicate, even with those sat next to us, and the damage getting our phones out mid conversation does to our relationships.
They can also have a detrimental effect on our productivity at work, and it’s probably not for the reason you’re suspecting. Let me explain.
It’s fairly well established now that the rise in smartphones has led to an increase in us taking our work outside of the office with us. That could be on our train home, on holiday with us, even into our bedrooms.
You might imagine your boss rubbing his hands together at such dedicated employees, but all work and no play make you a dull boy, right? Indeed, there have even been apps developed that give you prompts when they think you should take a break.
A recent study suggests that just such a time should be late at night, as using your phone shortly before you go to sleep can have a big impact on your effectiveness at work the next day.
“Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep,” said Russell Johnson, MSU assistant professor of management who acknowledges keeping his smartphone at his bedside at night. “Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep.”
All of which probably isn’t great, especially as so many of us own a smartphone, with studies suggesting that a good many of us actually use them at night, with some sad souls even whipping them out whilst making love (hopefully not posting a selfie to Facebook!).
Given that prevalence of smartphone usage, the potential impact on productivity could be quite significant. Indeed, the National Sleep Foundation estimates that some 60% of us fail to get a good night’s sleep each night.
Smartphones were more disruptive to our sleep than any other electronic device
The MSU study found that when we use our mobile phones after 9pm, not only is our sleep interrupted, but this reduces our energy for work the next day. Indeed, the researchers found that our phones were by far the most destructive electronic device we own. They were more potent than laptops, tablets or indeed our televisions.
The researchers suggested that the culprit for this disruptive quality was the blue light emitted by the majority of smartphones. This blue light was found to hinder the production of melatonin, which is the chemical in our bodies which helps us get to sleep.
“So it can be a double-edged sword,” Johnson said. “The nighttime use of smartphones appears to have both psychological and physiological effects on people’s ability to sleep and on sleep’s essential recovery functions.”
With most organisations hoping to make employees more productive, maybe they should start mandating what we do in the bedroom (just kidding!)