For many professionals, mobile devices are their lifeline, helping them to stay on top of the job all hours of the day — but that’s not always a good thing. Here are seven ways your smartphone is hurting your career.
1. Multitasking During Meetings
In many offices, multitasking is encouraged. But can it be considered productive when you’re in an important meeting and your attention is otherwise engaged in your smartphone? Not only is it an inefficient use of time to have your face buried in your device while a co-worker is delivering a presentation, it’s also quite rude — and a lot of us are guilty of it.
According to the second annual Bank of America Trends in Consumer Mobility Report, a study that explores new insights into how, when, and why people are using their smartphones, nearly one-quarter (24%) of Americans fess up to multitasking on their smartphone during meetings, and 27% say they are guilty of taking a phone call on public transportation (one my biggest pet peeves). Millennials (ages 18–34) are the guiltiest generation of these behaviors at 33% and 39%, respectively.
2. Texting the Boss Something Inappropriate
Accidentally sending text messages to the boss is embarrassing and easy to do, but now we have to contend with audio messages gone awry via SMS, especially if you have an iPhone with an updated iOS (Apple has added a small microphone feature next to the text window, which is extremely easy to hit by accident).
When asked about the most embarrassing moments with their smartphone, nearly one-third (30%) of respondents on the BoA Trends in Mobility Report cite loud ringtones going off in a quiet place, followed by accidentally calling someone (19%), and sending a personal message/photo to the wrong person (16%) — at least a small percentage of which are images that will send you straight to the unemployment line. Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.
3. Checking Your Device Too Frequently
I’m sometimes amazed that my friends get anything at all done at work as much as they’re on their phones. Texting, updating social media, browsing the Internet — it’s all a time suck that can put you in a precarious position if it starts to become a noticeable and productivity-killing habit.
Which the Trends in Mobility Report says it is. A prominent majority (89%) of adults check their mobile device at least a few times a day, with 36% checking “constantly,” the BoA study reveals.
That’s way too much by any standard, but particularly at work.
4. Responding to Work Correspondences Too Quickly
We’ve all hastily responded to a work e-mail while distracted — driving to work (you know you do it), out to lunch, having a couple drinks at happy hour — and in doing so, we run the risk of being sloppy, curt, and even misunderstood. Too much of that can start to affect your reputation, or, worse, give you a new one that’s hard to live down.
“We have come to expect a response within minutes of sending an e-mail, but immediate responses aren't always the best or most productive responses,” says Dana Campbell, a career strategy and expert in stress resiliency techniques. “Hasty responses lack intuitive and sound thinking and smartphone responses are often shortened and lack tact which could lead your reader to misinterpret what you said. It’s fine to read e-mail on your phone, but hold off on responding to messages until you can focus on developing the response and can type full sentences.”
5. Letting Your Productivity Lag
I’ve touched on the productivity aspect of overuse of your smartphone at work, but it’s not enough to say that’s it’s negatively affecting how much you’re able to get done — or not get done, as the case may be. It’s also important to put a hard number to how much time you’re wasting when you engage with your device.
“Every time you check your phone it can take up to 15 minutes to refocus on the task at hand,” Campbell says. To cut back, “Turn alerts and your ringer off. Better yet, put your phone in a drawer and pull it out during planned breaks,” Campbell adds.
6. Disrupting Your Sleep Pattern
It’s not fair to place all the blame on why we can’t sleep on smartphones. We’ve been tossing and turning for centuries, and our mobile devices are just one more cause of insomnia. The Atlantic recently published the findings of a 2012 study, however, that revealed the percentage of certain age demographics that lose sleep due to technology — with Millennials at the highest percentage, unsurprisingly — and also an explanation as to why: Smartphones (and tablets) emit what’s known as “blue” light, which is picked up by special cells behind our eyeballs that essentially tell our brain that it’s morning. What I’m getting at here is that your attempts at sleep are futile, Earthlings, so long as you’re Facebooking under the covers before bed.
Nip this habit in the bud to get more sleep — and be more alert and productive at work, because duh — by moving your charging dock across the room instead of next to the bed. Set a time to disconnect and stick to it. It’ll be weird at first, yeah, but you may also find that you’re able to relax and get some of those much-needed Zs.
7. Seeming Disconnected Despite Being Constantly Connected
It’s ironic how now that we’re connected 24/7, we’ve never seemed more disconnected. Ever get that feeling? That’s because we’re buried in our smartphones and devices so much of our lives that we often forget to stop and take inventory of what’s happening around us. That can be problematic at work if you’re not able to find a balance between what needs to happen via mobile technology, e-mail, and the like, and what needs to happen in real life — like interacting with actual human beings.