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October 26, 2012

Are We Addicted to Mobility?

By Bzur Haun, CEO

When dealing with mobility, we must ask ourselves “how much is too much?” – especially when the average American between the ages of 18 and 29 sends 89 text messages a day.

Additionally, three-quarters of workers say they use their cell phone in the bathroom. And 68 percent of people sleep with their phone close at hand, if not literally in hand (giving rise to contraptions like this).

While these modern tools certainly help make many workers more productive than ever, some experts say there’s a downside to that level of super-connectivity: Smartphones and tablets are replacing in-person interactions. If you’re actually in an in-person meeting, you’re constantly being interrupted and distracted by e-mail, text messages and IM.

It’s come to the point where many people feel anxiety if they can’t check their phone every few minutes.

While today’s mobile tools certainly open up new work possibilities, they also come chalk-full of potentially distracting temptations – especially in the workplace. From texting to Twitter (News - Alert) and Angry Birds, these fun mobile apps and games can stand in the way of productive work.

Taking ‘Technology Breaks’

Walk into any company meeting and half the attendees are most likely checking their phones or laptops while someone is talking – and presumably trying to make eye contact. How can managers handle mobile-crazy employees and retain full attention these days?  Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at Cal State Dominguez Hills and author of iDisorder says managers need to find ways to accommodate, but also control, employees’ mobile-phone impulses.

Rosen suggests taking technology breaks or “during a long meeting, give workers a chance every 20 or 30 minutes to check their phones.”

Human vs. Instant Messaging

Today’s generation of mobile natives is reshaping basic office communication, says Dr. Kimberly Young, founder and director of the Center for Internet Addiction and a professor at St. Bonaventure University. Young described an office she was asked to consult where a team of engineers insisted on tele-commuting and holding all their meetings online.

“These engineers had no social skills,” she said.

“The HR director didn’t want them to meet online. These were really bright people, but they were really hard to get in a room together. They spend less time in team activities, they’re not able to handle conflict or make eye contact. Everything’s texting and emailing – and sometimes you really do need to meet for certain things.”

Both Rosen and Young say the key is to find a balance between embracing technology and staying grounded in the present: “You can’t be carrying this thing around like an appendage on your ear,” Young said. “You have to make boundaries for yourself. Just because you can check something doesn’t mean you should. It’s a techno-stress we don’t need in our lives.

Interested in hearing more about workplace mobility? Read the full post from Bzur on his Chief Mobility Officer blog.

As president and CEO of Visage, Bzur Haun leads all facets of the business, including strategy and operations. Read more about the latest in mobility intelligence on Chief Mobility Officer:

Edited by Braden Becker
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