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Summary:

Yes, it’s an extreme headline, but it’s backed up by a new study presented at a British psychology conference today. The research claims addiction to our devices causes us to experience longed for “phantom vibrations” and increases stress. Time to switch off after hours.

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Yes, it’s an extreme headline, but it’s backed up by a new study by British psychologist Richard Balding, delivered today at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology Conference. Of course, if you’re picturing psychedelic visuals and nutty ravings, that’s not the type of hallucination Balding means. Instead, the UK Telegraph explains, the problem is with “phantom vibrations:

Blackberries and iPhones are meant to help workers manage their workload by giving them access to messages and alerts while away from the office.

But people become so obsessive about checking their email accounts and social networking sites that they actually become more stressed as a result, researchers said.

Some are so hooked to their devices that they even begin to experience “phantom” vibrations where they mistakenly believe their phone is buzzing in their pocket, it was claimed.

Balding’s team came to this conclusion after following the smartphone use of a relatively small group of 100 volunteers in a variety of professions and then measuring their stress levels. Anxiousness wasn’t linked to the participants’ profession, the researchers found, but instead to the amount of their smartphone use. The psychologists concluded that checking our phones stresses us out and the more stressed we become the more compelled we feel to check our phones, creating a vicious cycle of addiction and stress.

Simply switching off is the best solution, according to Balding, who urges managers to get on top of the problem:

Organizations will not flourish if their employees are stressed, irrespective of the source of stress, so it is in their interest to encourage their employees to switch their phones off; cut the number of work emails sent out of hours, and reduce people’s temptation to check their devices.

This is a similar conclusion to an analysis of iPass survey data on mobile workers done by another British academic a short time ago, which argued organizations need to help their employees police the boundaries between work and life and create space for genuine downtime.

Honestly, as a manager of mobile workers, are you trying to prevent smartphone overuse or pushing your staff towards it?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Menage a Moi.

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  1. Even though I pride myself on my ability to separate my private life from my work life, and even though I make sure I have plenty of true down time, I have experienced phantom vibrations. I carry my phone in a small pouch attached to my belt, and the phantom vibrations only occur when the phone is in the pouch. If it’s sitting on my desk, the phantom vibrations don’t occur. It the phone if off, nothing happens. It happens so often that I have started to believe that the vibrations are real, but not connected to actual phone activity; that is, the phone actually vibrates, but on its own, not because it received a call or text message.

  2. very interesting stuff. I do feel that in this day and age people are overly obsessed with having to know what people are doing at the very moment that they think about it.

  3. New SuperHuman Sunday, January 15, 2012

    It’s a nice article of reality. Nowadays, people depends on these high-technologies too much for their work. I am not surprised to the “side effects” from using cellphones too much.

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