Smartphone productivity

The boss of Twitter Europe is worried about your work / life balance.

“The advent of email everywhere means that most of us are in a state of cortisol-drenched fear, constantly on alert for an urgent call to action,” writes Bruce Daisley in an article entitled The way we work isn’t working.

He would know. A 2016 workforce study found an average of 2.35 hours is spent accessing social media every day, resulting in a 13 per cent fall in productivity.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat et al lead us down a rabbit hole of clickbait frivolity, and since we started getting emails on our phones, the working day has increased from seven and a half hours to nine and a half – presumably to compensate for time lost to “being connected” and “joining the conversation”.

Bruce is not alone. A former Google design ethicist [sic] is concerned technology is “hijacking our minds,” and the creator of the Like button has admitted his invention is part of a huge problem, saying he uses parental controls to prevent him from downloading apps on his iPhone. Physician, heal thyself.

We all know that smartphones have changed our working lives, and we are quick to celebrate that we are always in the loop, always online, always available. But we are hesitant to talk about the negative consequences.

The truth is that smartphones are addictive and distracting, meaning it’s getting harder for us to pay attention – a state of mind that measurably lowers our cognitive ability and raises our anxiety.

Mark Zuckerberg brags to his shareholders that we are spending more and more time using his apps, that he is encroaching ever further on our “privileged attentional space,” the same part of the brain that recognises the sound of our own name.

In other words, working on a laptop with your smartphone nearby is the mental equivalent of working while your colleagues talk about you over your shoulder.

Bruce wants to make work enjoyable again, so much so he’s written a manifesto about it: “We’ve all accepted all of the ways that we’ve added to work in the last ten years but most of us have been scared to ask for any flexibility in return.”

When a Twitter VP is talking about “an escape from digital enslavement,” it is time to admit we have a problem.

Bruce wants us to turn off our notifications and have an honest, face-to-face conversation about the way we work. Good idea – I’ll be with you in a second, I just have to reply to a tweet.

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