Is Smartphone Use Causing Stress Within An “Always On” Culture?

Every year, 400,000 people in the UK claim work related stress is making them ill, according to Dr Alasdair Emslie, president of the Society of Occupational Medicine, as reported by the BBC. He says changes in technology are contributing to this stress. It’s not a surprise when you consider the “always-on” state many of us currently exist in, both in our work and personal lives.

Smartphones are a fantastic invention in many ways. They allow us to stay connected, do business from anywhere and everywhere and in theory increase our level of productivity. But is this “always connected” approach to business causing the work-life balance to go awry? Some experts think it is; that the increased demands of smartphone connectivity is making employees feel as though they’re unable to cope.

Increasing smartphone use

Ofcom reports that the amount of time we spend connected to media is rising. In fact, smartphones have caused our daily total media consumption to grow from 8 hours 48 minutes in 2010 to over 11 hours in 2014.

Many of us check our smartphones first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Three quarters of people are even reported to take their phones into the loo with them. Literally the only break from smartphones is sleep. Checking work emails and calls at all hours of the day isn’t giving employees the time and space they require to switch off, or spend time with their families or pursuing other interests.

Plus, according to a PwC report called The Future of Work – A Journey To 2022, we’re not working more productively even despite all of this extra data and connectivity.

The business consequences

If employees are expected to be constantly connected to their smartphones for work purposes, companies may well witness an increase in stress levels. Stress goes hand in hand with increased employee absenteeism, as well as unhealthy practices like drinking, smoking, and eating junk food.

On top of this, there is the problem of overworking. The European Working Time Directive caps the working week at 48 hours with an 11 hour break within every 24 hours. Employees won’t be operating under this legislation if they’re glued to their smartphones morning, noon and night.

Legislation and occupational health surrounding smartphone use is a serious issue for modern businesses – have you considered it carefully enough?

OHBM is a professional Manchester-based occupational health advisor. Please do get in touch with us for a free overview of your business’ occupational health.