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Smartphone access: May help reduce stress and improve work-life balance?

On Monday last (Jan 8th) an Irish University published findings from a study showing that the use of smartphones for personal purposes while at work can lead to reduced stress, as well as lower levels of conflict between work and personal life. The study was run by University of Galway and University of Melbourne.

The study was conducted at the European branch of a global pharmaceutical company which had switched policy from a restrictive approach to personal phones, to open access for non-work purposes. The research tracked about 40 employees who used their personal smartphones when at work, and a similar number who maintained a self-imposed ban by leaving their phones behind them when they stepped inside the work premises. 

Additional material:

The study found that: 

  • Despite fears of smartphone distraction and loss of focus, work performance did not decline when the ban was lifted
  • Work-life conflict - the perceived conflict between the demands of work and personal life - significantly declined for workers who had access to their phones compared to those who did not
  • Employees with access to phones reported being able to help with family issues during the day, helping to reduce pressure on their partner
  • Spreading personal communications throughout the day also meant employees were not overwhelmed when they turned on their phone after work

Speaking of the findings, Professor Eoin Whelan, University of Galway J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, said: 

"Rather than enforcing a ban on smartphones in the workplace, our experiences in tracking the introduction of smartphones in this company suggest a more effective strategy would be to establish an organisational climate where the company expectation for smartphone behaviours are known – for example ensuring that they are not used in meetings or in the canteen, with adherence monitored by employees themselves."

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Authors: Derek Mooney

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