Do Smartphones Help or Hurt Productivity?

Smartphones are ubiquitous in modern society. Most of us can’t simply imagine our lives without these nifty gadgets. It’s even harder to think back to the days when we didn’t have smartphones. Many businesses and employees have successfully adapted smartphones into the workplace. Truck drivers, for example, are highly dependent on smartphones for things like GPS navigation. While smartphones are no doubt useful in our lives, do these little gadgets actually make us less productive, or more? This is a tough question that business researchers have tried to answer for several years.


What the Research Says


A Harvard researcher named Lisa Perlow conducted an interesting pilot study several years ago to test what impact turning off smartphones would have on employees. She was testing how employees would handle the need to always be on because of portable technology like smartphones. When the employees turned their smartphones off, the employees reported being more satisfied with their jobs and even more motivated. Some even said they had become more efficient. Does this mean that smartphones are actually bad for productivity? Not quite.


A more recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder had only 10 percent of the employees being surveyed agreeing that smartphone use has hurt their productivity. It’s often thought that social media use with smartphones kills productivity at work. Some surveys have indicated as such. But data from the Pew Research Center shows that employees actually use smartphones to access social media sites for work-related issues.   In that case, banning smartphones at work would actually hurt productivity levels. What can managers actually derive from all this data?


It Depends on What the Smartphone is Being Used for


As it turns out, the issue is not the smartphones, but how smartphones are used. If an employee uses a smartphone during work hours to play Candy Crush, then, of course, productivity levels will be sapped. On the other hand, if the employee uses a smartphone to access an app that automates a certain task, then both productivity and efficiency levels will be high.


Employees can use smartphones to hurt or improve productivity in this sense. Availability of smartphones makes it easy for employees to access certain apps, files stored in the cloud, and emails to keep working regardless of the location. But if employees simply use smartphones as a distraction, then the positive uses will be wiped out.


Why Smartphones are Essential for Productivity in Some Sectors


It’s actually long past the time businesses view smartphones as devices that hurt productivity. Some sectors definitely thrive largely thanks to smartphones. Truckers, for example, use smartphones to stay connected, communicate, and plan routes using GPS data. Truckers perform better with smartphones. This is why app developer Bill Busbice created HWY Pro, which is an app that can specifically improve efficiency levels for truck owner-operators.


There are many sectors where smartphones help rather than hurt businesses. Journalists need smartphones to do their jobs. Travelling salespeople can use smartphones to communicate with colleagues wherever they are. When apps like HWY Pro come along, the productivity potential of smartphones become even more obvious.