Smart Phones - How Smart Are They?

We are guilty of it too…. Using our smart phone all day, everyday! Over 55% of the Canadian population has a smart phone - but are we really that smart? What are the implications of smart phones? How do they impact our overall health and our workplace productivity?  

Consider how much time you are spending on your smart phone every day. I know that I use it both at home and at work, and am always connected.

Let’s explore these top three workplace implications of smart phones:  

1)      Neck and back pain

Neck and back pain are common complaints of many Canadians, and likely, our smart phones are contributing to this. Smart phones and small tech devices (tablets) commonly require us to look down to use them, causing strain on our necks and backs. Even if you are using your smart phone at work where you have a perfect ergonomic set up, you are likely still looking down to your lap or your desk to use your phone,  therefore not utilizing healthy body mechanics. Neck and back pain affect our whole bodies both physically and mentally, making it harder to concentrate and be productive at work.

What can we do? Try to use your smart phone at eye level with your neck and back in an upright posture. If you are able to prop your smart phone up on your computer screen to be at eye level, that works too.

2)      Always being connected

Having a smart phone allows us to connect to their phone and emails at any given time. There are many benefits to this, but it really can be a double edged sword. There are clear benefits to always being connected, as it allows us the ability to work remotely and stay connected. But, can you really take a vacation if you are still connected to work? What are the effects of always being reachable? With constant smart phone use becoming the norm, offices functioning in different time zones, global stock markets and international business transactions,  there are often expectations that employees can be reached 24/7. Unfortunately, this leads to reduced sleep, increased stress, increased anxiety, decreased productivity throughout the day, and decreased work-life balance.

What can we do? Talk with your colleagues about expectations and understand what is expected of you outside of your work hours. Plan around these expectations to ensure you can do meaningful activities other than work, and take time to purposely put your smart phone aside. Focus on your sleep hygiene – turn your phone off at night, don’t look at the screen before you go to bed, and make a relaxing night time routine to help you get to sleep.

3)      Decreased awareness of your surroundings

Constantly being on our phones takes us out of the present moment and distracts from the environments we are in and the people we are with.  How many times have you walked down the street sending work emails and not paying attention to what’s happening around you? You might be missing some important or interesting information while focusing on your smart phone. Being mindful of your surroundings and being present in the moment has health benefits including reduced stress, better concentration and reduced anxiety, so it is worth taking time throughout the day to put your phone away for a few minutes and try to focus on the present moment. There are also safety concerns with constantly being on our phones. Just last week I saw someone almost get hit by a car walking across the street because they were on their phone! 

What can we do? Try to schedule a few breaks from your phone throughout the day. While you are walking, keep it in your pocket or bag until you get to a certain destination. Keep it out of sight while you are with friends or family and in meetings at work. Check your phone deliberately instead of taking it out without thinking.  Download an app (we have tried “Checky”) which can monitor how many times throughout the day you check your phone- you will be surprised by how many times it happens without you thinking! This tool can help you track and reduce the number of times you check your phone daily. 

What do you find are the other implications of smart phones? What are the benefits? Please let us know in the comments below. If you are looking for more information on disconnecting and supporting your mental health at work, please contact us or check out previous posts with individual strategies.