"It's just my phone. What's the problem?" Many people assume that there are far worse addictions to have than smartphone use. App addiction has become a severe problem for the working population, both in IT and outside the technology industry. IT professionals spend countless hours on their screens every day. In Singapore, for example, adults may spend as many as 12 hours per day on their devices. Many struggles with symptoms of addiction: inability to leave their phones behind; difficulty handling activities without consulting their phones; and even experiencing symptoms of panic when their batteries run low. App addiction in the workplace is becoming an increasing problem--and savvy professionals are working to address it now before it gets out of control. Left unchecked, app addiction can lead to serious problems, including depression resulting from excessive phone use, including excess time on social media; brain chemistry changes; disrupted sleep and decreased processing ability.
Addressing App Addiction in the Workplace
If you're concerned about app addiction in the workplace, what steps can you take to combat it? Many of today's daily business practices rely on smartphones to maintain productivity--but the fact that your business currently engages in that cycle doesn't mean you can't change it. Read below to discover 8 tried-and-tested ways to address app addiction in the workplace.
- Create an environment where employees can disconnect when they go home. It sounds obvious, but for many companies, it isn't: don't require employees to stay tethered to their phones outside of work hours. Let them be at home, taking care of home responsibilities when they leave work for the day. Remind employees that they don't have to answer emails outside of work hours, and encourage them to leave work tasks until the next day--even if it means you aren't providing 24/7 access to your customers. Employees who don't feel as though they have to use their phones all the time are more likely to engage in those other activities fully--and less likely to exhibit symptoms of addiction.
- Institute low-technology meetings. Do you rely on technology to take care of the vast majority of your communication? Do you hold meetings over Skype--even when you're just a few desks away from your coworkers? When you can, hold meetings that don't use technology as an intermediary. Get together in person, and put down your devices. While you may need them to access information throughout the meeting, keep those uses brief--or, if possible, bring in the information on another source and leave phones outside of the meeting room. If phones aren't readily available, it's a lot more effort to check them, which means that your employees will be separated from their devices for at least that time period. As those meetings become the norm, employees will learn how to adapt their behaviours and grow used to going for longer stretches without their devices.
- Get outside the office. Institute company health programs--and don't rely on technology for them. Go for walks together at lunch. Put in a gym--no phones necessary! When you help your employees get moving, you can often help them break that reliance on their phones and help them pay attention to something else. Offering regular opportunities for other activities, whether you're going out bowling or participating in community outreach, can also help decrease app addiction by sparking interest in other activities.
- Use laptops and desktops more. Checking your phone is easy. It can be accomplished in a matter of seconds, from wherever you are. Using a laptop or desktop to access the same information, however, requires more effort. By changing the device you use, you can decrease the amount of time you spend mindlessly checking apps or scrolling websites--and that can, in turn, create a vital shift in your brain that decreases overall app addiction.
- Make alternatives readily available. Phones are convenient. They're almost always in your pocket or otherwise easily within reach. What alternatives are available--and equally suitable--to your employees? Are you offering strategies that will help them accomplish their daily tasks without needing an app to get by? Consider what apps are achieving for your employees right now. What alternatives were available before you started using those apps? How did you connect with one another, or communicate, or access vital information? As you look for alternatives--and keep them where employees can easily access them--you'll make it easier to combat app addiction throughout the office.
- Delete unnecessary apps. How many of the apps on your phone do you use regularly? How many of them are essential to your daily business? Keep the apps you must have, but delete the extra ones. This simple step can go a long way toward reducing the amount of time you spend using your phone each day, especially if you replace those activities with more productive ones.
- Install the right apps. In addition to removing unnecessary apps, consider using the right ones. Apps like Offtime and Moment, for example, can help reduce distractions and make it easier for employees, even tech employees, to mindfully consider how much time they're spending on the phone and how it may impact their overall job performance.
- Change the conversation. Many people attempt to break phone addiction by setting rules or using "I can't" statements. "I can't" makes you feel as though something is tempting just out of reach. Instead, change the way you talk about app addiction. Discuss alternatives throughout the office. Offer rewards for employees who install monitoring apps on their phones and decrease app usage over time. When there's a reward in place, employees are much more likely to make that mental shift that will help them keep app addiction under control.
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