Home & Office

Here's why you can't stop checking your smartphone, even after work has finished

Google explores how using a smartphone for work and play during the pandemic has impacted work-life balance.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Even before the coronavirus pandemic made work from home (WFH) the norm, work-related smartphone notifications intruded in people's personal time because they often use the same phone for work and their personal life.  

Google commissioned research firm Qualtrics to run a survey with 3,000 employees to find out what the main BYOD smartphone disruptions were, and whether Google's Android 'work profile' actually helped people manage the blurring between work and personal lives under WFH conditions. 

The study found that 68% of employees use one smartphone for work and personal life. Just 32% used two smartphones while 85% of employees use at least one smartphone for work and play. 

SEE: Managing and troubleshooting Android devices checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

Qualtrics says its data suggests workers were experiencing "work-related FOMO", or fear of missing out – something that's been exacerbated by social networking and smartphones, which is said to create anxiety in people who feel like their life could be worse by not staying up to date with others.  

Qualtrics found that 34% of employees found it hard not to check work notifications while at home, while 29% reported difficulties not checking personal notifications while at work.

"That inability to disconnect likely stems from an expectation that being more available makes them a better employee," notes Qualtrics in a blogpost

The top five reasons employees continue working from smartphones outside of work hours: checking important emails, text or calls (60%); calendar next-day reminders (44%); checking new notifications (40%); jotting down a note (32%); and completing tasks for the next day (29%). 

The survey also found that 62% of employees always or very often use their phone for work while not at work. Almost half of all employees use their phone for work when they wake up, and 40% continue using it after work. About a third use it for work on the weekends. 

Qualtrics reckons this work-related FOMO doesn't often push users back to a laptop – workers just stay on the smartphone to continue work in off-hours. 

Microsoft's recent studies have looked at long-term WFH from a different perspective, analyzing what a year of WFH has done to work interactions and people's social capital, or the gains people can make by knowing others.

While Microsoft Teams usage has been increasing, one of Microsoft's studies found that people are leaning towards one-to-one chats rather than large group posts. 

"Between April 2020 and February 2021, the number of people posting chats in a Teams channel – designed to include the whole team – have decreased by five percent. In contrast, the number of people posting small group or one-on-one chats has increased by 87%," a Microsoft Research team writes in a recent Harvard Business Review report.

SEE: Stop using your work laptop or phone for personal stuff, because I know you are

Google's study, however, focusses on work-life balance and whether Android work profiles, which separate work and personal apps, improve it. 

"Across the various user groups surveyed, 70% said they'd prefer a user interface (UI) on their phones that clearly separates work and personal apps and data, over a UI with no separation," Google notes in a blogpost

Given that only iOS and Android are the mobile operating systems people use today, Google is arguing its Android work profile is superior to iOS with an MDM solution. 

"The data shows that work profile users (81%) are more satisfied than non-work profile users (71%) with their experience of managing work and personal life on the same device," Google notes. 

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