Smart­phones dis­tract us and make us less ef­fi­cient at work

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

While smart­phones help us stay in touch with col­leagues, keep on top of our in­box, and com­plete ur­gent tasks on the move, they ac­tu­ally make us less pro­duc­tive when we are work­ing at our desks, ac­cord­ing to a new psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­per­i­ment by the Univer­si­ties of Wurzburg and Not­ting­ham Trent, com­mis­sioned by Kasper­sky Lab.

The ex­per­i­ment un­earthed a cor­re­la­tion be­tween pro­duc­tiv­ity lev­els and the dis­tance be­tween par­tic­i­pants and their smart­phone. When their smart­phone was taken away, par­tic­i­pant per­for­mance im­proved by 26 per cent. The ex­per­i­ment tested the be­hav­ior of 95 per­sons be­tween 19 and 56 years of age in lab­o­ra­to­ries at the univer­si­ties of Wurzburg and Not­ting­ham Trent. Care was taken to bal­ance ex­per­i­men­tal con­di­tions and gen­der across lab­o­ra­tory sites.

Re­searchers asked par­tic­i­pants to per­form a con­cen­tra­tion test un­der four dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances: with their smart­phone in their pocket, at their desk, locked in a drawer and re­moved from the room com­pletely. The re­sults are sig­nif­i­cant - test re­sults were low­est when the smart­phone was on the desk, but with ev­ery ad­di­tional layer of dis­tance be­tween par­tic­i­pants and their smart­phones, test per­for­mance in­creased. Over­all, test re­sults were 26% higher when phones were re­moved from the room.

Con­trary to ex­pec­ta­tions, the ab­sence of the smart­phone didn’t make par­tic­i­pants ner­vous. Anx­i­ety lev­els were con­sis­tent across all ex­per­i­ments. How­ever, in gen­eral, women were more anx­ious than their male coun­ter­parts, lead­ing re­searchers to con­clude that anx­i­ety lev­els at work are not af­fected by smart­phones (or the ab­sence of smart­phones), but can be im­pacted by gen­der.

“Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown that on the one hand, sep­a­ra­tion from one’s smart­phone has neg­a­tive emo­tional ef­fects, such as in­creased anx­i­ety, but, on the other hand, stud­ies have also demon­strated that one’s smart­phone may act as an dis­trac­tor when present. In other words, both the ab­sence and pres­ence of a smart­phone could im­pair con­cen­tra­tion”, says Jens Binder from the Univer­sity of Not­ting­ham Trent. “In sum­mary, our find­ings from this study in­di­cate that it is the ab­sence, rather than the pres­ence, of a smart­phone that im­proves con­cen­tra­tion,” adds Astrid Caro­lus from the Univer­sity of Wurzburg.

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