You’d think that we’d all be super productive now that nearly every worker is connected to the company’s network for data, email, and content 24 hours a day, right? But it’s becoming increasingly clear that simply being connected more hours every day isn’t a shortcut to fulfilling the productivity promise that comes with mobile devices.
Studies and practical experience is increasingly showing that there are three surprising productivity killers that should be avoided by anyone who genuinely wants to use a smartphone or tablet to become more productive. The first is that the mobile devices are contributing to employee stress and encouraging a lack of sleep.
Increasingly, scientists say that leaving mobile devices on all night is a major factor in sleep disorders. One reason is the LED’s and lights that surround us all, especially the bluish glow
from cell phone screens. Entrepreneur Magazine reported last week that The National Sleep Foundation, for example, has found 60 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep -- and one key reason given is that they’re working on their smartphones. Consider what a lack of sleep can mean -- depressed mood, irritability, lack of focus, stress and other health problems -- and you can see why it pays to unplug at night.
Stress, caused by a feeling of being constantly tethered to the job, affects up to 42% of workers surveyed last year by staffing firm Ranstad US. Yet 68% of the Ranstad survey
respondents say that they do not believe there is any productivity increase from using cell phones or tablets to access company email and documents outside business hours, although they believe it is a job requirement even if it is never explicitly stated as such.
Companies that want to improve employee productivity with mobile devices can make a start by reminding managers not to encourage late night and early morning email exchanges, and to contact employees after hours only for true emergencies rather than routine communications, the experts say.
Mobile Devices as Distractions
One of the reasons we all love our mobile devices so much is that they allow us to multitask – we check email while we’re commuting to work on the train, answer text messages while we’re waiting for the elevator, and do a bit of research or document editing while we’re having lunch or talking on the office phone. But Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries wrote in Health Magazine that what we call multitasking is really task-switching, and that makes us less productive – not more productive.
“When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount,” Dr. Winch says. “It’s like a pie chart, and whatever we’re working on is going to take up the majority of that pie. There’s not a lot left over for other things, with the exception of automatic behaviors like walking or chewing gum.”
But even walking seems to be an increasing problem for distracted mobile device users. Workplace safety analyst ERI says that mobile devices are increasingly common distractions that cause serious workplace injuries. The company cites fatal accidents caused by texting
forklift operators, factory workers talking on cell phones who fell into equipment, and office workers who spilled hot liquids, tripped and fell, or toppled out of an office chair while multi-tasking. In fact, multi-tasking – checking email while rushing to catch the train, answering a text while climbing the stairs, or just constantly handling multiple tasks at once – is
climbing the list of common causes of accidents.
Of course, as noted above, when we use our mobile devices has a big impact on how distracting they are. But it isn’t just late-night use that’s a problem. 82% of American workers check email first thing in the morning, but efficiency experts say that’s a big productivity killer. “Starting the morning by checking your email and your calendar allows others to dictate
what you accomplish,” wrote Forbes contributor Ilya Pozin in his recent article on the habits of highly productive people.
To help workers focus on one task at a time instead of becoming distracted, employers need to take workplace safety into consideration. Many companies have already done so, banning cell phones on the factory floor, while using any company vehicle, or while walking in a construction zone or warehouse environment. Reviewing your company’s workplace and potential dangers that might arise from distracted cell phone or tablet use is a good idea, even if you have only a small workforce.
The Built-in Productivity Barrier: Printing
Prat Agarwal, Director of Business Development at Breezy, says that the third reason that mobile devices haven’t yet fulfilled their productivity promise is a built-in productivity barrier in the form of a lack of easy, secure mobile printing.
Paper has been around since the 2nd century BC, and it’s still the preferred medium for 52% of American workers when it comes to long or complex documents that need to be reviewed or edited. Add in the number of documents that still require old fashioned signatures or multiple hard copies such as insurance applications, purchase orders, credit applications and so on, and the ability to print from a mobile device is a necessary tool that’s still missing from most devices – and in many situations where workers need to print.
“Breezy is a secure mobile printing solutions provider, so this productivity barrier is especially visible to us because our first contact with prospective customers often comes when a C-level
executive in the company tries to print for the first time from an iPad, iPhone, or Android device. A quick search of the app store for iOS or Android devices will turn up hundreds of
mobile printing apps – most of them unsecured and not suitable for mobile executives because they don’t work with all devices and all printers, or they don’t meet company standards for security, Agarwal says.
Soon, he adds, IT is scrambling for a solution, taking valuable hours away from other projects to find a solution. “Proactively giving users the ability to print from their mobile devices without compromising the company’s data security or compliance isn’t that hard with solutions like Breezy that are device and printer agnostic and integrated with leading MDMs including Good
Technology, MobileIron, and AirWatch. But companies don’t realize what a productivity barrier mobile printing can be until someone tries it.”
Device manufacturers didn’t omit mobile printing from their product designs because they thought printing was going away, Agarwal adds. “They left it out because it’s hard to work with all the kinds of printers, and provide a solution that is both future proof and works within a company’s existing print infrastructure. That’s why so many solutions work with just one device, or a few printer brands – requiring companies to invest in specialized printers with AirPrint capabilities.
“We took a different approach,” he says. “We looked at the scope of the problem, and built a solution that addresses it without compromising regulatory standards like HIPAA, FINRA, and FERPA, with robust security and on-device encryption to protect from man-in-the-middle attacks that can trigger a reportable CFAA event.”