The proliferation of digital devices has made it increasingly difficult to distinguish between our personal and professional lives, as we not only take our work home with us but bring our personal lives into the office.
A recent study from the University of Texas at Arlington highlights the damaging impact accessing our work at home via a mobile device can have, not only on our personal life but our professional life too.
The risks of mobile working
The study tracked over 300 married couples, all of whom worked full-time and regularly used mobile devices for work whilst at home. The researchers were specifically looking to test whether the negative affect such technology has been proven to have on the direct user also spills over into their spouses.
The research found that when people were logging in at home, it not only caused conflicts at home, but also resulted in lower job satisfaction and worse performance levels at work.
“It’s really no surprise that conflict was created when a spouse is using a mobile device at home,” the authors say. “They’re sometimes engaging in work activities during family time. What that ultimately leads to, though, is trouble at work for both spouses. So, whether companies care or don’t care about employees being plugged in, those firms need to know that the relationship tension created by their interaction with their employees during non-work hours ultimately leads to work-life trouble.”
It’s perhaps not surprising. A few years ago I covered research looking at the impact domestic smartphone usage had on our performance at work.
The study found that smart phone usage after 9pm both interrupted the users sleep, but also sapped their energy for work the following day. What’s more, using a smart phone was found to have a larger impact than any other electronic device, including laptops, tablets and televisions.
A surprising culprit for this was the blue light emitted by most smart phones. It emerged that this was particularly disruptive as blue lights were found to hinder melatonin, which is the chemical in the body that helps us 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.”
Maybe it’s time for employers to be proactive about this and make it a clear policy that employees should switch off when they leave work. It may seem like you’re getting more from your employees, but all evidence suggests that the quality is not all its cracked up to be.