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Updated Oct 23, 2023

Mobile Device Usage at Work Increases Productivity

Smartphones can equal increased productivity, but only if they're used the right way.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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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.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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