The impact of smartphones at work in the post-digital generation
The connectivity boom has massively affected all of us. From how we communicate at work to how we socialise at home, technology like smartphones have changed our lives and there’s no going back.
Let’s look at the statistics: in January 2017, the Labour Force Survey discovered that there were about 31.85 million people in employment. According to Statista, a leading statistics company, it’s estimated that the UK will be home to approximately 48 million smartphone users by 2018. So, what happens to the workplace when there are more smartphones than employees?
Instead of blindly believing other studies that claim using a phone at work is insecure, inefficient and counterproductive, United Carlton (providers of office copier solutions in north-east England) looks at why it might be beneficial to let this post-digital generation incorporate their smartphones into their job.
How smartphones affect us at home
To gauge how smartphones might influence our work, we need to look at how important they are to us at home. The younger generation are especially influenced by the rise in smartphones, with research suggesting that 70% of 18 to 24 year olds check their phones in the middle of the night. This might not seem like a big deal, but this post-digital generation is almost certainly going to shape the way smartphones are incorporated into working practices in the future.
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Is the BYOD culture influencing employee productivity right now?
You’ve probably already noticed, or been a part of, the BYOD trend. BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device and describes the policy of letting workers use their own phones, laptops, tablets, or other personal devices at work.
In fact, if employers give the BYOD culture a trial run, they might find that it saves time and assists productivity. When employees are connected to a wireless internet network, they can possibly complete tasks in ways not limited to sitting at a desk or being in the office. Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group carried out a study that found that the average BYOD user saves 37 minutes per week due to using their own devices. This is because these users are working on the go and between ‘dead-times’ in the office when they aren’t stationed at a computer.
We can also see similar positive results in multiple countries. Users in the United States saved a total of 81 minutes per week by using smart technologies at work, while those in Germany saved four minutes per week. Consequently, this suggests that smart devices can globally boost productivity rather than weaken it.
Looking deeper into the issue, smart device users appear to be working an extra two hours and sending an additional 20 emails a day. Since they’re able to introduce their own technologies into their working practices, it’s arguable that they are more likely to take tasks home with them, which could explain the extra work.
Other benefits to the BYOD trend
Aside from better connectivity, working extra hours, and the ability to work remotely; there are other ways that the smartphone helps improve working practices.
Many members of staff are now able to use their smartphones as a mobile printing device. For example, if your workplace uses a Toshiba printer connected to a network, you can use your smartphone to print documents without having to install additional software. This frees up time during the day as smartphone users can print from anywhere in the office (i.e. instead of only from their desk). Cloud storage and printing documents that aren’t saved to hardware are also making working practices more flexible and allowing employees to work in ways that weren’t previously possible.
What do employers think about smartphones at work?
Everyone seems to have a smartphone, including employers. So, you might think that they’d be on board with the BYOD trend. However, employers’ attitudes towards the use of mobile phones in the workplace aren’t typically very positive. This is down to the fact that most employers simply view the smartphone as a distraction that reduces an employee’s ability to complete a task.
Why don’t they just create rules around the usage of smartphones to monitor the situation and get the best of both worlds? Although employers can introduce company policies, they appear to be hesitant in creating company policy on mobile phone usage. One small business expert claimed that business owners are ‘worried staff will spit the dummy’ at a mobile phone policy. To counter this, they suggested that employers should ‘simply show them the math’ as staff are likely to co-operate to keep the company going and protect their job.
Employers are humans, so their attitudes towards workplace smartphone policies is likely influenced by their personal phone habits, with some being tech fans and others being relatively uninterested. Research conducted by the University of Surrey has suggested that 11% believed that it was unacceptable for a mobile phone to be turned on during a meeting, while 80% believed that it was inappropriate to read or send text messages in the company of other colleagues or their boss.
What happens if we don’t embrace smartphones at work?
Not getting involved in the BYOD trend makes it highly probable that employers will miss out on performance-boosting opportunities. If companies are willing to kick-start a BYOD culture, then they may see advantages like:
- 16% boost in productivity over a 40-hour week.
- 21% increase in company loyalty.
- 23% rise in job satisfaction.
If employers aren’t willing to incorporate change in the workplace, then perhaps these operational efficiencies might not come about for many years yet.