insight magazine

Is Your Smartphone Hurting Your Career?

Our gravitation towards technology is actually damaging our in-person interactions. By INSIGHT Staff | Summer 2017


“Staying connected” is just what we do. We simply can’t live without our smartphones and other mobile devices. In fact, Pew Research Center data suggests more Americans than ever own smartphones (77 percent) and tablets (51 percent). But what happens when these productivity tools, now standard-issue for most accounting and finance pros, actually get in the way of productivity—and, ultimately, our careers?

As it turns out, our gravitation towards technology is actually damaging our in-person interactions—not exactly good news for client-facing professionals.

“Mobile phones hold symbolic meaning. ... In their presence, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds,” writes Shalini Misra of Virginia Tech University, part of the team behind the study, “The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices.”

“Even without active use, the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections,” she continues. The study further revealed that conversations in the presence of mobile devices—even among people with close relationships—were less fulfilling, less friendly, and less empathetic.

What’s more, “Technology, particularly communication technology, is the number one distraction [at work] in almost all studies,” says Larry Rosen, psychologist and co-author of “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World,” in an interview with MarketWatch. “We know that people check in every 15 minutes or less and, as soon as they check in it will take upwards of 20 minutes to return to the task they were working on.”

So, what to do?

For starters, if you want to have a real, engaging face-to-face conversation with a client, colleague, friend—actually, anyone—try turning off your smartphone, putting it in your bag or pocket, or leaving it well out of reach.

For those of us that simply can’t live in a digital-free zone for more than a few minutes, Rosen suggests at least taking a break every 90 minutes. “Technology is inundating all of our sensory levels and our brains become tired,” he says. “What you want to do is to take a break to calm your brain activity.”

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