Your smartphone is killing your ability to focus at work
The cognitive cost of smartphones is higher for people who have a heavy dependence on their handsets
You read it right. Your phone is probably hurting your ability to focus at work, according to new research. A recent study published in the journal The Consumer in a Connected World, and described in The Harvard Business Review, concluded that having your phone nearby — even if it’s not buzzing or ringing, and even if the power is off — can hurt your performance.
The creepiest part is that you may not even realise just how distracting your phone can be. For the study, the researchers asked hundreds of people to work on two different cognitive tasks. Sometimes people were asked to leave their phones on the desk; sometimes in their pocket or bag; sometimes in another room. In all cases, sounds and vibrations were turned off.
Interestingly, when the researchers asked participants whether the location of their phone had affected their performance, most said it hadn’t. That suggests the phones are influencing our behaviour in ways we might not even be consciously aware of.
The researchers found that certain people were more susceptible to their phone’s negative influence. Participants who agreed with statements like, ‘I would have trouble getting through a normal day without my cellphone’ were strongly affected. Bottom line: Consider planning to keep your phone in another room while you are working. You can also consider designating some phone-free time blocks to improve your concentration.
The research builds on a similar study, published 2015 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. That study found hearing your phone buzz, even if you don’t interact with it, can hurt your performance on cognitive tasks.