Let’s make a bet, shall we? I bet you’re reading this on your smartphone right now. Was I right? Okay, send the money to: Matt Duczemi—just kidding.
My point is that, in today’s busy world full of technological advances, it’s almost a guarantee that even if you’re sitting completely alone in your apartment, you’re no more than a couple steps away from being able to contact almost anyone in the entire world. While this is definitely an amazing accomplishment for mankind, there are certainly many drawbacks to it as well.
How many of you immediately grab your phone whenever it starts beeping or buzzing, even if you know it’s going to be a meaningless email from that website you signed up for last week? I’m guilty of it as well. But what we’re not realizing is that even taking a quick ten-second glance at our phones completely disrupts us from whatever we were engaged in before the Pavlovian response kicked in. Even worse, the content of the email or message we received has the potential to completely take us away from our previous activity, especially if the email is work-related.
Research and Study
A recent study conducted by the University of Hamburg discovered that having 24/7 access to communication devices results in elevated stress levels across the board. This is due mostly to the fact that our bosses just assume that we should be available at all times, regardless of whether or not we’re on the clock. Not only do our employers expect it, but we also succumb to it as well.
The study involved 132 workers from 13 different places of business, who were given a stress-related survey every day for 8 days. Of these days, the participants were expected to work and be available on 4 of them. The other 4 they had to themselves. Some of the participants also gave saliva samples in order to measure their cortisol levels, the hormone which regulates stress in the body.
As you can imagine, those who were expected to be available reported higher stress levels, and their saliva samples showed the same. However, even though those who were not expected to work reported feeling less stressed out, their cortisol levels also increased as well. Despite knowing full well that they were completely free to do whatever they pleased, they still may have been affected by the possibility of an emergency call or message coming through on their smartphones.
It seems that our idea of “relaxation” has completely changed. As a freelance writer, I can certainly attest to this: When I went on vacation this summer with my wife, there were still a couple of times I felt compelled to respond to clients immediately when they emailed me, even if it was just to say “I’m away for the week and will get back to you soon.” Rather than completely ignore them, I felt it was in my best interest to give them an update so they didn’t end up passing me over and moving on to someone else. Regardless of my reasoning, for at least a couple of minutes during my one week of vacation, my mind was back on the grind rather than on the ocean waves.
We keep our smartphones within reach at all times. We immediately read and respond to emails, regardless of their true importance. We do all this, as I alluded to in my personal anecdote, in order to keep from falling behind. But we seem to be forgetting that, by putting our career and professional life ahead of our personal life, we end up falling behind in one way or another anyway.
What do you think? Is it worth sacrificing a couple of minutes to reply to a work-related email? Or are we sacrificing too much by anticipating the next buzz from our phones?
Featured photo credit: Two Dreamers and a Smartphone Addict / Jake Stimpson via farm8.staticflickr.com