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Mobile Device Usage at Work Increases Productivity

Updated Feb 21, 2023

Table of Contents

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  • A team with employees who get to take quick smartphone breaks may be more productive.
  • Mobile device usage is about finding balance. Too much workplace smartphone usage can lower productivity. In extreme cases, using mobile devices on the job can lead to workplace accidents that cause damage, injury or death.
  • Striking a balance between productivity-boosting and productivity-draining smartphone usage starts with offering other types of breaks. It also involves matching your employees’ values and goals to their work. Remote work arrangements may help too.
  • This article is for employers deciding whether to allow personal device usage at work and the extent to which it should be allowed.

In recent years, many companies have loosened their rules on in-office personal phone use. For most employers, it’s not as big of a deal now if an employee occasionally scrolls through social media on their phone or texts a friend. This is because research has shown that nonwork phone usage during working hours can boost productivity. So, how should this factor into your business’s mobile device usage policies in the workplace? Here’s what you should know.

Can mobile devices at work make employees more productive?

Mobile devices at work can potentially make employees more productive. In fact, a September 2022 study published in an open-access journal reaffirmed the notion that bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies can improve productivity. The study’s authors also noted that reluctance to implement BYOD policies often leads to lower productivity. 

Most studies correlating BYOD policies with improved productivity, though, are not recent. In 2013, Dell surveyed 1,500 IT decision-makers and found that two-thirds of respondents saw increased productivity after implementing BYOD policies. This aligns with Kansas State University research from 2014.

Two members of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology found that workplace personal device usage improved employee well-being and, by extension, productivity.

“Having workers take small breaks on their phones throughout the day may positively influence their perceived well-being at the end of the workday,” said Sooyeol Kim, one of the study’s authors and a doctoral student at Kansas State University.

The study uncovered a positive relationship between using smartphones to take short breaks for things like texting friends and how employees felt at the end of the workday. The results also revealed that on days when employees used their smartphones more for social media use, they reported feeling better than when using their phones for entertainment or personal reasons.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway

Short employee smartphone breaks can potentially increase your team’s productivity.

How to avoid mobile devices becoming a distraction

Mobile devices can become a distraction in any workplace, and there are numbers to back this notion. Employees waste 2.5 hours per day on their phones, according to a 2020 Screen Education survey. Among the survey’s 1,019 respondents, 14% said that smartphone distractions had resulted in at least one accident in their workplace. Among these accidents, 59% led to property damage, and 50% led to injury or death.

At the same time, the productivity benefits that come with BYOD devices are well-researched and proven. It’s all about striking the right balance. To that end, below are some tips on how to allow workplace mobile device usage without introducing excessive distractions.

  • Offer other types of work breaks. Following Ben & Jerry’s model of cool job perks can encourage employees to spend their break times away from their phones. The ice cream giant gives each of their employees daily free ice cream – and can you really work while you’re eating ice cream? Probably not. Once this fun little break is over, it’s time for work again, with a newly clear mind.
  • Give your employees what they want and need at work. It’s healthy for employees to take quick breaks to text their friends. It’s not so healthy if your employees are endlessly scrolling because they don’t love their work. Offering waste 2.5 hours per day on their phones that guide your employees toward work they love can get them out of their phones and into work mode.
Did You Know?Did you know

A 2022 Pew Research Center survey found that a lack of career growth opportunities was the second-most common reason employees left jobs in 2021. Professional development pathways can be as good for your long-term retention as for your short-term productivity.

  • Create a company mission statement and tie it to your company culture. A clear company mission statement can drive your culture since it shows your employees the role they play in your business. Any alignment between this mission and your employees’ own values can excite them about their jobs. An excited employee is less likely to scroll on social media all day long.
  • Introduce remote work options. Working from home can increase productivity, especially when paired with flexible working arrangements. Just set the number of hours your employees need to work. Then, require that they track their hours with a time clock and let them work whenever they want. In this scenario, time spent on phones doesn’t subtract from the number of hours your employees work. You get full productivity, and your team gets its phone time.

You can use time and attendance software to streamline your employee tracking. Read our guide to the best time and attendance software platforms to find the right service for your business. Start with our Clockify review to learn why this service is our top pick for hybrid teams.

Phones down, productivity up

Your team should be unafraid to check their phones every now and again for a quick break from work. You should also implement approaches that naturally limit your employees’ time on their phones. Just a little phone time – but no more – can go a long way in boosting productivity and employee morale.

Max Freedman
Contributing Writer at
Max Freedman is a content writer who has written hundreds of articles about small business strategy and operations, with a focus on finance and HR topics. He's also published articles on payroll, small business funding, and content marketing. In addition to covering these business fundamentals, Max also writes about improving company culture, optimizing business social media pages, and choosing appropriate organizational structures for small businesses.
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