(Information source: Matthew Wall BBC News)
Do you have a smartphone?
I bet you check your work emails on it when you’re supposed to be on holiday.
You probably break out in a cold sweat when you realised your hotel doesn’t have wi-fi, you don’t have a phone signal, or you realise your phone’s battery is getting perilously low.
If so, you’re suffering from “always on” smartphone addiction.
Admittedly, some find smartphones liberating because they release them from the nine-to-five working environment, releasing them to something more flexible giving them more time to spend with friends and family.
For others they are a curse because they find it impossible to switch off and relax.
‘Always stressed’ syndrome
Dr Christine Grant, an occupational psychologist at Coventry University’s Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, told the BBC: “The negative impacts of this ‘always on’ culture are that your mind is never resting, you’re not giving your body time to recover, so you’re always stressed.
“And the more tired and stressed we get, the more mistakes we make. Physical and mental health can suffer. There is a massive anxiety about relinquishing control,” she says. “In my research I found a number of people who were burnt out because they were travelling with technology all the time, no matter what time zone they were in.”
Women in particular were susceptible to doing a full day in the office, coming home to make tea and look after the kids, then putting in a late shift before going to bed.
Dr Alasdair Emslie, president of the Society of Occupational Medicine, agrees, saying: “Every year about 400,000 people in the UK report work-related stress at a level they believe is making them ill.
“Changes in technology are one contributory factor, particularly if this makes employees feel they are unable to cope with increased demands or have less control in handling their workload.”
The blurring of the line dividing work and leisure brings with it another potentially serious consequence for companies.
Under the European Working Time Directive there is a 48-hour limit to the working week and you’re meant to have an 11-hour break every 24-hour period. If you’re checking texts and emails first thing in the morning and last thing at night, it’s pretty easy to bust those limits. This jeopardises companies’ duty of care towards their employees.
Research shows that more than half of workers feel they are expected to work faster and hit deadlines sooner as a result of this new connectedness, while nearly half believe their employers now expect them to be available any time, anywhere.
How to manage the load
Mobile phone and other technology companies argue that mobile connectivity is entirely beneficial, not harmful, and many younger people, office workers, and self-employed would agree.
“Smartphones and tablets… enable agile and flexible working which benefits both employers and employees alike,” says Graham Long, vice president of enterprise business team at Samsung UK.
While Chris Kozup, senior director at Aruba Networks says: “From a study we have conducted with The Future Laboratory, we found that this idea of being ‘always on’ and connected is actually helping workers manage their work/life balance.”
The key is making this new flexibility work for you and being disciplined about your smartphone usage.
So if you’re getting ready to hit the beach, set up those “out of office” email alerts, switch off your phone and put it out of reach when you go to bed.