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The further away from our smartphone, the better we can concentrate at work. A new study shows participants scoring 26% higher in a concentration test when their phone is removed from the room, as opposed to lying on their desk.
The experiment was commissioned by Kaspersky and conducted by the Universities of Würzburg and Notthingham Trent. It tested the behaviour of 95 people aged between 19 and 56. The participants were asked to perform a concentration test under four different circumstances: with their smartphone in their pocket, at their desk, locked in a drawer, and removed from the room completely.
Test results were lowest when the smartphone was on the desk, but with every additional layer of distance between participants and their smartphones, test performance increased. While concentration levels went up, anxiety levels stayed the same, indicating that being away from their smartphone did not make participants nervous.
The outcome of the experiment is consistent with some previous studies, one of which showed that typing notes into digital devices during meetings lowers the level of understanding of what is actually happening in the meeting.
In light of the new results, it may seem that asking employees to leave their smartphone in a different room is the logical thing to do for managers. However, the researchers point out that there are some contradicting findings on the subject, with certain studies concluding that separation from one’s smartphone does in fact have negative emotional effects, such as increased anxiety.
“In other words, both the absence and presence of a smartphone could impair concentration”, says Jens Binder from the University of Nottingham Trent in a press release.
Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, recently advised managers to have an open dialogue with employees about tech distractions, when commenting on survey results that showed 82% of employees keep their smartphone within eye contact at work.
“The connectivity conundrum isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be managed”, she said in a statement. “While we need to be connected to devices for work, we’re also a click away from alluring distractions from our personal lives like social media and various other apps”.
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