Proof is here – if you needed it – that having your phone always on is bad for business, and for your health.
From the early days of the smartphone, and the excitement of being always in touch, has come the dawning realisation that this is a new slavery. Thanks to the office in your pocket, people increasingly expect to be able to contact you all hours, and they expect a reply from you right away, no matter how unimportant their request.
Harvard academic Leslie Perlow has now confirmed our suspicions. Being constantly in touch is actually not good for us. Perlow introduced Predictable Time Off among a group of consultants (I think it used to be called a lunch or coffee break, in the old days), when mobile phones and email systems were switched off.
As a result, the newly out of touch individuals were more effective and efficient, and collaborated more. They were happier, had greater job satisfaction and felt they had better work-life balance. Perlow repeated her experiment across many of the offices of the Boston Consulting Group in the USA, with broadly similar positive results.
Says Perlow: “The pressure to be on usually stems from some seemingly legitimate reason, such as requests from clients or customers or teammates in different time zones. Once colleagues experience this increased responsiveness, their own requests expand. Most just accept these additional demands – whether they are urgent or not – and those who don’t risk being branded as less committed to their work.”
She has written a book, Sleeping with your Smartphone, which tells the story and gives tips on how to break the vicious cycle of thinking you have to be always on call.