Smartphones distract, lower efficiency: Kaspersky Lab

  • Productivity increases 26% when phones are removed from the room
  • Digital devices can have a negative impact on concentration levels
Smartphones distract, lower efficiency: Kaspersky Lab
 

SMARTPHONES are useful when it comes to staying in touch with colleagues, checking email and completing urgent tasks at any place, anytime.However, productivity falls when someone is actually at their desk, according to a  psychological experiment by the Universities of Würzburg and Nottingham Trent, commissioned by Kaspersky Lab.

The experiment unearthed a correlation between productivity levels and the distance between  participants and their smartphone. When their smartphone was taken away, participant performance improved by 26%.

The experiment tested the behavior of 95 persons between 19 and 56 years of age in laboratories at the universities of Würzburg and Nottingham-Trent. Care was taken to balance experimental conditions and gender across laboratory sites.

Researchers asked participants 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.

The results are significant – 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.

Overall, test results were 26% higher when phones were removed from the room.

Contrary to expectations, the absence of the smartphone didn’t make participants nervous.  Anxiety levels were consistent across all experiments.

However, in general, women were more anxious than their male counterparts, leading researchers to conclude that anxiety levels at work are not affected by smartphones (or the absence of smartphones), but can be impacted by gender.

“Previous studies have shown that on the one hand, separation from one’s smartphone has negative emotional effects, such as increased anxiety, but, on the other hand, studies have also demonstrated that one’s smartphone may act as an distractor when present. In other words, both the absence and presence of a smartphone could impair concentration”, says Jens Binder from the University of Nottingham Trent.

The results of the experiment correlate with the findings of an earlier survey – named “Digital Amnesia at Work.”

In this survey, Kaspersky Lab demonstrated that digital devices can have a negative impact on concentration levels. It showed, for example, that typing notes into digital devices during meetings lowers the level of understanding of what is actually happening in the meeting.

While banning digital devices from the workplace is not really an option, these findings – combined with those of “Digital Amnesia at Work” – give businesses an insight on how to improve their productivity.

“Instead of expecting permanent access to their smartphones, employee productivity might be boosted if they have dedicated ‘smartphone-free’ time. One way of doing this is to enforce ‘meeting rules’ – such as no phones, and no computers – in the normal work environment”, says Kaspersky LAB SEA general manager Sylvia Ng.

Kaspersky Lab has been researching the social effects of digitalisation, and how digitalization makes people more vulnerable to cybercrime, for the last two years. An overview of the findings is available at amnesia.kaspersky.com.
 
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