Millennials & Smartphones: Are We Working Slower or Smarter?

Ding! The dopamine hits as your phone’s friendly alerts draw you in. Don’t lie, we’ve all been there. The addictive nature of social media, text messages and a meme here and there are understandably irresistible. Not to mention that our dependence on smartphones has increasingly taken over our daily practices, and all the more our professional lives as well - it’s kind of hard to avoid.

Our reliance on cell phones is no longer just about texting and phone calls. Now, we can scroll Instagram for hours whilst checking our emails and make banking transactions all on the same device (sometimes, all at the same time).

But where’s the line when you’re at work? As millennials (born between 1981 to 1996) we now make up the largest segment of the workforce. Being the largest also comes at a price - big generational stereotypes like - “you’re always on your phone”. And whilst device-dependence has negative connotations, it also has some benefits.

Let’s dive into the pros and cons of using phones at work and what impact our devices may have on our productivity and everyday work-life balance.

WhatsApp: The New Smoking Break

The case against phones in the workplace is not necessarily concerning work-based activities. Employers and managers are concerned with personal online distractions. These can be anything from texting friends to sending Snapchats of your 3rd coffee break of the day. Who can resist a good coffee snap though, really?

So what’s the drawback of personal phone-use during work? Switch-cost.

Switch-cost relates to the costs associated with switching from one task or activity to another.

It may not seem like a lot but stopping your work task to check your phone, then readjusting your focus back to work, takes time. It’s also estimated that millennials spend about 21 hours per week on their smartphones (that’s nearly a full day)! On top of this, there’s little stopping us from spending those extra couple of minutes scrolling, which can eventually add up.

Notably, technology tends to make our daily tasks quicker and evidently, the workforce has become accustomed to multitasking. It’s become easier to get things done and we, therefore, feel it necessary to do more than one thing at once. This is usually seen as a positive trait, especially during interviews - “I’m a great multitasker and flourish under stress.” However, productivity at work not only measures the quantity of work produced, but it also takes into account the quality. At the end of the day, if the switch-cost of multitasking is too great, the quality will suffer.

Never fear, there are ways to combat our inherent need for smartphone interaction, including making it clear to family and friends that work hours are work hours for a reason. Although, it’s easier said than done. Not only this, managers can implement a limited personal phone-use rule, however, we’ve seen these kinds of regulations create an impression that companies are restrictive and micro-managerial ‘bad guys’, rather than just protective of the time they pay for.

With that said, there have to be some phone-pros out there *crosses fingers*, but can they outweigh the cons?

Smartphones Make For Savvier Workers

Let’s cut to the chase, phones are the epitome of convenience. Need to call someone - use your phone, want to listen to music - use your phone. The list is endless and the possibilities for communication are pretty much infinite.

Smartphones really aren’t going anywhere. For that reason, giving the workforce freedom to balance their own work and personal life is a positive company culture move to go against traditional mindsets. Providing employees with the ability to dynamically manage themselves in and out of work, acknowledges that workers have responsibilities other than just professional ones. Personal emergencies happen and employers are becoming more understanding of this.

On the topic of emergencies, smartphones aren’t just for Facebook, they’re incredibly useful for work. Your boss steps out of the office and something dire happens, open your phone and text them. This can also be said for safety in general. Hence, the accessibility afforded by phones can help companies avoid disasters and maintain consistent communication no matter what. We as a workforce are no longer tied to our desks, we can roam and keep in touch, all thanks to smartphones.

Phones give us unlimited access to information, real-time updates, clients etc. and can help keep business flowing. Not only this, giving employees the liberty to use their phones at work can encourage smarter work with apps that track time, organise projects and help improve productivity - some of our personal favourites are Slack, Trello and Toggl.

All in all, it seems like the working world won’t be able to have their cake and eat it too. If phones are here to stay for work purposes only, personal distractions may be inevitable.

But what do you think - will devices be the cause of our demise or help us thrive? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Kind Regards,

The JA. Team