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The iGraine

For several months, I found myself suffering from an almighty headache almost every morning.  It was generally accompanied by dizziness and a feeling of exhaustion.  I genuinely thought I was coming down with something pretty serious.  My diet hadn’t changed.  My sleeping habits remained the same.  I didn’t think I was experiencing any additional stresses at the office.

And yet – every morning – there it was.  Within fifteen minutes of arising, I had this awful feeling, sometimes coupled with nausea.  I changed to decaf.  I ate right away.  Nothing.  It was still there.  I woke up feeling great, but within fifteen minutes I felt like a small mallet was just striking at the back of my head.  It lasted for about three hours, which presented a challenge to the rest of my day.

And then my eureka moment; I changed my morning routine by accident.

On one morning, upon waking, I made my coffee, then reached for my smartphone to check the 3,000 emails that I would go through.  For the first time in a long time, I left it in my car.  Not a problem.  I opened up my laptop and flew through my messages, drank my coffee, read the news, ironed, showered, dressed, packed a lunch, hopped in the car and then started my trek to the…  whoa.  I felt great.

But why?

It became reasonably evident that I had no long-term disease for which I would need extended, intense treatment.  I was just giving myself an iGraine every morning.

Yes.  An iGraine.

My standard routine consisted of waking up, putting coffee on, then roaming through my abode with my head dangling completely off my neck, staring at my phone.  It was to the point where my chest was getting a chinprint on it.

Was I spending the first fifteen minutes of every morning giving myself a staggeringly effective stress headache through neck strain while cutting blood-flow to by brain?  It seemed like a possibility, especially in light of the fact that the one morning I didn’t have any symptoms was the one morning I didn’t have my phone.

So on day two; skip the smartphone check again.  Day two; symptom free again.  Same thing on day three.  And day four.  And so on.

There have been thousands of studies on neck strain as a cause of headaches and exhaustion.  There have been even more studies on the lack of circulation to the brain causing both.  What I don’t know is if there has ever been a study on intense smart phone use (and head position) as it relates to these things.

If you find yourself suffering almost daily from a morning of exhaustion and a headache, I beg you to try this one small lifestyle change.  Lift your head up, or – better yet – keep your phone in the car.  The difference in my life has been astounding without a morning iGraine.

Do you find yourself suffering from exhaustion and headaches in the morning?

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A Culture Disturbed

 

It finally happened.  In a world where mobile phone manufacturers have made every innovation in order to ensure that we are “forever accessible”, one of the world’s leading mobile phone manufacturers (Apple) actually had the foresight necessary to recognize that the world is getting tired of being accessible.  They actually realize, perhaps, that sometimes you can’t be – or just don’t want to be – accessed.

Apple is releasing a “Do no disturb” feature on its iPhone offering, allowing users to adjust their phone settings to block incoming calls, texts, emails, notifications, weather updates, tweets, and status changes.

It’s brilliant, and long overdue.  Apple is betting on the fact that in this world of continual accessibility, some will decide that it’s okay not to be accessible for a few minutes out of every day (though most at first will – allowing adjustment time – choose between 2:25am and 3:18am as their “Do not disturb” period.

My first thought, admittedly, was:

“WOW!!!  So… I can just hit a button?  And I’m free?  I can adjust settings in nine seconds, and I would have complete and absolute liberation?  I could go through an evening with my children, and not see a notice inviting me to “like” a friend’s friend’s Facebook page on beaver dam spelunking?  Well this changes everything!!!!”

My second thought?

“Wait….  I have an “Off” function.  This application is stupid.  This does nothing more than turn my phone off.  The only real benefit is that I don’t have to wait for the damned thing to power up again.  And this is innovation?

That brings me, of course, to my third thought.  And it brings me to a recognition that this is, indeed, huge:

This application has with it a potential cultural shift.  Of course, we could all turn our phones off, automatically enabling a perfectly functioning “Do not disturb” feature.  But we didn’t turn it off.  We have all called someone, only to react in utter disbelief that someone had the audacity to turn their phone off.  You don’t even consider turning your phone off between 2:25am and 3:18am.  Nobody would dare turn their phone off (except my parents, but that’s a different post entirely).  To have your phone off is akin to an admission that you’re considering jumping.  You’ve surely lost your job.  You no longer want to deal with the world.  It is offensive.  It’s unprofessional.  It’s the equivalent of turning your back on anything and everything important.  And if after an hour it’s still off?   It’s most certainly because the person you called went camping, had no signal, and are now a malodorous assemblage of randomly strewn appendages, having obviously been besieged by rabid black bears.

Or maybe they’re just playing a game with their kids.

Is this innovation any different than a power button?  Nope.  But it does represent something much bigger than any phone app.  It may represent a cultural shift, where – if enough people start admitting that they don’t want to be disturbed – it will become okay not to be disturbed.

Cross your fingers.   And if you happen to have an urgent requirement that I know about your beaver dam spelunking exploits; feel free to let me know about it.  But expect to leave a message.

 

If it becomes culturally “okay” to have your phone off or on “Do not disturb”, would you take advantage of it?

 

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

The Next Step

When I was ten years old, I opened my first savings account. Well, my mother opened it for me, but I got to go to the bank with her and the teller told me what to do if I wanted to put money in my account on my own. She gave me a little book that was filled with blank pages, and she explained that every time I put money in my account someone would write the information down so I would have a running tally of deposits, and I would be able to use that information to find out how much money I had in my bank account. I’m pretty sure I still have that passbook somewhere. I might keep it to show my grandchildren how I used to do my banking back in the old days. Can you believe that we actually wrote it all down? On paper!

In the last twenty  years, we’ve gone from manual entry on a passbook to computer updates on the passbook to the ATM card that gives you twenty-four/seven access to any bank from any store. I can’t even remember the last time I used an ATM to get money, now that I can go to the grocery store and get a litre of milk and take cash from my account at the same time. But did you really think that technology would stop there?

Say hello to the EnStream Mobile Wallet Project.

EnStream is a joint mobile commerce venture between some of the biggest cellular carriers in Canada. For the last couple of years, EnStream has been looking at different ways to make banking more convenient for cellphone users, primarily through apps and online banking. Now EnStream is in talks with Canada’s big banks to take the next step and make your ATM card completely obsolete. The Mobile Wallet would allow the telecom companies to embed credit and debit card information on your SIM Card – that ridiculously small piece of plastic that locks into your phone and works as the key to your personal life. Currently, where your SIM card goes, your phone information follows. Soon, your banking info will tie in as well. There are signs that the project could even be taken a step further. Think of how thin your wallet will become when your driver’s license, ATM card, and credit cards have all been replaced by your Smartphone.

Of course, as with everything in life, there is a catch. And this catch could prove to be quite inconvenient. If I go to a restaurant tonight and misplace my Blackberry, it’s a major pain in the you-know-where and I have to go looking for the phone and then call the cellular carrier and get a new phone number and buy a new phone.  If I go to a restaurant five years from now and misplace my Blackberry, my entire life is now up for grabs to whoever picks up the phone. And we’re not talking about them being able to read my emails to my mum. We’re talking about identity theft made quick and convenient.

Security and technology have been advancing side-by-side with each other for years. All those years ago, when I got that first bank account, anti-virus meant taking vitamins to avoid getting the flu and firewalls were found only in cars and buildings. It will be interesting to see what comes first – the creation of a SIM Card that will allow for banking and personal information to be stored on a phone, or the construction of security systems that will need to be put into place within a Smartphones’ operating system to safeguard that information. Should we allow for the former without the latter, or can we trust that security will catch up with technology before things go wrong?

 

Would you use the mobile wallet service if it was available? Would you be worried about the security of that information?

Edit/Undone – Part 2

This week’s post is a continuation of last week’s post Edit/Undone Part 1.  

“I don’t remember how to do long division”.  The other day, while in the lunchroom, a co-worker’s innocent comment incited a challenge.  Casting our minds back to our elementary school days, those of us who had gathered for lunch set out to re-discover a lost skill.  Slowly, almost painfully, we worked through it together, writing out the solution on paper.  A minute later, we arrived at our answer.  “We did it!” was quickly followed by “Why did we ever learn this?  It’s so pointless”.  A smartphone was quickly produced. “My teacher always said we’d never walk around with calculators in our pockets.  Hah.”

Does this story give you pause?  When I look at youth just 10-15 years younger than me, I see even more differences.  Teenagers seem to have abandoned the English language entirely, preferring “textese” to coherent sentences (can nybody srsly read dis stuff?).  The generational change that has occurred from my generation to the next, when compared to my parent’s generation to mine, is staggering.  In a few short years, these kids will be entering the workforce.  Does that scare you?  As an employer, how do you feel about hiring someone whose idea of a conversation exists in 144 character increments?  I’ll admit, at first, the idea makes me cringe.  But after thinking more deeply about the topic, I realized that this is a typical generation gap, just different; and while scary, I take comfort in the fact that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Why is this change happening so suddenly?  Technology.  Throughout my lifetime, I’ve watched technology steadily replace the skills of yesterday.  No need to read a map, plug in your GPS and it will tell you when to turn.  Have trouble spelling?  Spell checker to the rescue!  Barely passed your road test?  Not to worry; cars now park themselves, avoid collisions, and apply proper braking pressure (what could go wrong?).

Technology has enabled us to do things easier, and faster.  It’s like steroids for generational change.  As we accomplish more in less time, we have more time to do more things, so we add more to our plates.  But then we feel a time crunch, and once again try to make everything more efficient.  We are always looking for a way to do more.   But it means we also have to know how to do more as well.

It’s simply not possible to know everything these days.  It’s been said that a single edition of the Sunday times has more information than the average villager would get in a lifetime during the Middle Ages.  How do we cope?  We abandon knowledge in exchange for knowing how to find it.  We don’t need to know how to do long division; all we need to know is to use a calculator (or a smartphone) to find the answer.   The emergence of the “open book test” in the last 10 years is a perfect example of this trend.  We prioritize “searching” over “knowing”, and traditional skills are thrown to the wayside.

Because of this, business owners may be wary of the young employee, regarding them as undisciplined, clueless, or distracted.  In reality, they are just differently adapted, just as you are differently adapted than your grandparents were.  Try to challenge assumptions when evaluating the newest generation.  Is it true that youth have worse customer service skills due to less face-to-face interaction?  Or are they more socially attuned thanks to social media?  Is it true that they not able to focus on details in an information-overloaded world?   Or are they free thinkers, able to make new connections in a sea of data?  Younger people bring new skills and priorities to the workplace; employers need to recognize what they bring to the table, and then support them in areas where they may lack – just like everyone else.  They may just be your best chance of success in this quickly evolving world.

Like it or not, there is no CTRL-Z for change.  Srsly.

What are your thoughts on how technology has changed society?  Are you apprehensive about the younger generation?  Or do you see their unique skills as an opportunity?

Edit/Undone – Part 1

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Disclaimer:  This week’s topic proved to be more complicated (and perhaps, contentious), than it first seemed, so we are trying something different; we are adopting a multi-post format, soliciting different perspectives on this issue.  Read, comment, and check back next week for Edit/Undone, part two. 

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Where most of my entries have revolved around the retail or marketing side of technology, I wanted to offer some insight into how I believe the younger generation has been affected by what is now a simplified, easily corrected world.  The Edit/Undo phenomenon applies (I believe) to life, work, and the retail environment.

I’ll go back a few years first, explaining the way things were when baby boomers were growing up.

If you had an essay due for school, you had multiple pieces of fools cap at the ready.  You first wrote out a plan of the opening, body and closing, and the arguments or points that you would be covering.  Then you drafted your piece on piles of paper, getting a pretty good sense of the wording.  Then you would take a red pen, and make notes all over it.  Then you rewrite it, hoping not to make an error.  Then you write it again; recognizing that you made errors.  Then you write it again, because your mother recognized that you used an arrow to insert a missing word.

And so – more often than not – you ended up with a stunning four page, hand-written essay that took only four days to create.  And there were a couple of errors.

And you wrote it again.

That same piece today would take half an hour to construct.  And therein lies the cultural shift as it relates to communications, life, retail, and all things everything.

The fact that every refined piece of work had attached to it an attention to detail and a show of caution ultimately translated into more caution and concentration in daily life.  If you make a mistake, you pay for it with a consequence that required reapplying the same effort to get back to where you needed to be.  Because of the entrenched notion in the back of our heads that reminded us that we can’t just erase something, everyone worked more diligently.  On everything.  For school.  At work.  In our social lives.

There was no such thing as erasing.  No option to simply delete the parts we didn’t like.

Today’s younger generation grew up with the mighty “Edit/Undo”.  You start smashing words on paper, highlighting, erasing, cutting and pasting, inserting things into a downloaded template that auto-corrects your format.  It fixes your spelling errors and grammar.  And if – out of a lapse in concentration – you accidentally erase entire sections on which you have worked incredibly hard… you have an endless supply of Get Out of Jail Free cards.

Edit… Undo.

And it’s fixed.

There is no such thing as a true mistake for this generation.  There are only temporary problems to which there are very quick fixes.

This has carried over, it seems, to every aspect of their lives, including their careers.

Next week, Meagan will continue the discussion in Edit/Undone part two.

The Death of Downtime

Are you planning on fitting in a few extra hours of work tonight?  Chances are the answer is yes.  According to a recent study by Forbes Insights, only 2% of employees, from managers to CEOs, said they never work weekends or nights.  Of the 98% that do after-hours work, nearly half of them do so on a regular basis.

Newer technologies, such as smart phones, are frequently implicated.  These “remote-office” tools allow work to be conducted at any time, anywhere (including, while on “vacation”).  Of course, these are just tools – it’s the individual that decides how they’re used.

There is no question that our workplaces have changed, but the reasons are not straightforward.  It goes beyond “unrealistic employer expectations”.  Employees themselves are increasingly seeking flexible jobs with the ability to telecommute.  And in turn, employers are responding by making it easier to work at a moment’s notice.

I once had the pleasure of meeting a Google employee.  Google is one of the most sought after companies to work for, and is often touted as the “ultimate” workplace.  The employee proudly regaled me with stories about Google headquarters, commonly known as Googleplex.  It did sound like a great place to work, but I also saw something more ingenious.  Google has blurred the lines between work and home.  Employees can work while commuting to Googleplex on the wifi-enabled Google train.  Services, such as laundry, are provided, reducing the need to go home and do “chores”.  Recreational activities are provided on-site.  And catered gourmet meals are provided – but are carefully timed.  An early breakfast and a late supper entice workers to arrive early and stay late if they wish to partake.  Google had truly made it possible to work whenever, wherever.  And while I saw this as an open door to overwork, this employee only saw perks.

Is there a problem with working more than the standard 40 hour week?  Surely working more hours means you get more done?

Aye, there’s the rub.

Several studies have consistently shown that workers who clock in over 40 hours per week are not more productive.  Studies of industrial workplaces, for example, have shown that workers produce the same number of widgets in an 8 hour day as a 10 hour day.  With the exception of occasional overtime (and I do mean occasional), working longer does not equate to increased productivity.

But there are more important implications than just productivity.  We sacrifice our leisure time for work time, and as a result have more stress and less time for family and friends.  So if we’re not accomplishing more, why do people do it?  In a Wall Street Journal article, Laura Vanderkam succinctly points out that there is a strong correlation between how busy we are and how important we feel; ironically, overwork is way of showing we are dedicated to our jobs and families.

Seems counter-productive, no?

With information from:

http://www.mobiledia.com/news/138387.html

http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/why-working-more-than-40-hours-a-week-is-useless.html

Do you do extra work on evenings and weekends?  How do you evaluate your productivity?  What impact does extra work have on your personal life?

Fear of Falling

Raise your hand if you aim for failure in all of your endeavours.

Anyone?

Anyone?

Bueller?

Somehow, I thought that would be the reaction I got. Who stands up and declares that they love nothing more than to crash and burn when they try something new? No one enjoys putting their best foot forward only to be pushed back five steps because they weren’t prepared or didn’t have what they needed to get the job done. It’s all about doing a job and doing it well and succeeding at everything, right?

But here’s the problem: that’s actually not possible. The Law of Averages says that some people are going to fail and some are going to succeed. Nature is all about balance. So that means that some people, regardless of how equipped and knowledgeable and skilled they are, will fail at their attempts to start a small business. It has to happen. It’s awful and no one likes to see it, but can you envision a world where every business that started stayed open? Talk about supply outweighing demand!

So how do entrepreneurs do it? How do you make that commitment and put effort into bringing your dreams into reality, while knowing the whole time that there is a rather large chance that your reality will come crashing down around you? I know what you’re thinking – that some people are just lucky and that is what makes them successful. They hit the market at the right place at the right time and were triumphant where others had found defeat. Here’s my proof that this is not the case: five names. Biz Stone, Jawed Karim, Akio Morita, Harland David Sanders, and Bill Gates. All five are entrepreneurs who suffered major setbacks in their first attempts to start an enterprise. But now, because they refused to give up and instead started over with more experience and more determination, we have Twitter, YouTube, Sony, KFC, and the biggest software company in the world.

This may sound clichéd, but the key to being a successful entrepreneur comes down to personality and values. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world will all tell you the same thing: they weren’t afraid to fail. They went into every venture determined to make a go of it, with the attitude that failure was not an option. And then when it all went to pieces and the doors closed behind them, they would learn from it and pick up those pieces and try again. But they were all so determined to find success that they pushed through what would keep most of us from even trying. And believe it or not, this is a trait that you can learn for yourself. Sure, it feels awful to be pushed back and there may be some tears and venting and depression and sadness. But after your pity party ends, you’ll have a drink and take a shower and get back out on the field. Because that’s the way that the game is played in the world of start-up businesses.

Do you recover from failure easily, or do you find yourself defeated when things don’t go the way you had hoped?

Whhooosaahh

“There is an ancient saying that the sense of a vessel is not in its shell but in the void. So it is with this room. It is for those who come here to fill the void with what they find in their center of stillness.”

I recently was on a ten minute break and ran into a co-worker who was standing in the hallway rubbing their forehead, trying to massage away their stress and control the blood pressure that was increasing by the second.  I looked at them and said “Wooohssaa”.  My co-worker looked back at me like I was crazy and asked me to repeat myself.  “Woosah — calm down, take a minute, breathe.” Or at least that what it meant on Bad Boys 2. If it was in a Will Smith movie, it must be true.

In the everyday hustle and bustle of life, we are constantly trying to find a way to get off the hamster wheel to breathe, even if it is only for a second.  Your day starts at 6am, you get yourself and your family ready for the day, and you go to work prepared to face whatever happens. You spend hours being pulled in sixteen different directions by twenty-four different people, with deadlines to meet and meetings to be had and clients that want it all and they want it yesterday. And then you have lunch and repeat it all again in the afternoon.  You may put in forty hours that week, or you may put in ninety hours that week.  Who knows?  One thing is for sure – the rat race that may be great for your career is definitely not so great for your health.

Doctors and health officials highly recommend that we decrease stress in our lives. Stress puts us at risk for heart problems, mental health issues, digestive disorders, lowered immune systems – it all ties together with your state of mind. But mediation and relaxation – even just a few minutes a day – has been proven to increase your ability to fight off illness and increase your endorphins. Endorphins are those invisible neurotransmitters that tell your brain that you’re happy. The more endorphins you produce, the happier and less stressed you’ll be in the future. In other words, actively working to reduce your current stress levels will cause you to experience less stress later on. And less stress means happier employees. Studies have shown that employees who keep stress to a minimum take less sick time, have increased productivity, and statistically have fewer errors in their work.

Many corporations have started to notice the benefits of stress-free employees. Apple, Google, Nike, and HBO are just a few of the mega-conglomerates who are encouraging their workers to take life easier and pace themselves. These companies have done everything from relaxing their dress codes, to encouraging job sharing, to opening entertainment rooms and letting their workers take an hour here and there for some TV time. Some have even added mediation and relaxation rooms to their office space, complete with mediation consultants who will work with the employees on stress-reducing techniques. You only need to look at what these corporations are producing – both in terms of product and profit – to see the results.

There is so much information out there about the benefits of having relaxed and calm employees in the workplace and how this can benefit to both our companies and workers. So why are so many of us still stressed out to the point that we’re missing out on our personal lives because we can’t step back from the office?  My advice: Lock yourself in a bathroom stall for 5 minutes and Woosahhh. Trust me – you will feel much better.

What does your company do to promote relaxation and de-stressing in the workplace?

APPrehension

Being a cell phone user for more than 25 years, you can imagine the confusion with which I’ve dealt as it relates to the ever-changing offerings that have been presented to me.  It’s not so much about the phones, but rather the things that can be done with them.

My first reaction?  I want my life to be simple.  Don’t complicate my lifeline.  I just want to make a damned phone call.

In the last fifteen years, however, I have witnessed a remarkable redefining of what phones “do”.  And I’ve been challenged to figure out why they’re still called “phones”.  They’re not phones.  They’re not just “smart”.  They are laptops.  They are fully functioning laptops that happen to have the capacity to make and receive calls.  Since every laptop and pad is now capable of making calls, effectively offering precisely the same functions as their much smaller cousins – I would assert that for the sake of continuity – they be placed in the same family, renamed “really, really, really big phones”.

So now the question I have is “What the hell I do with it?”.  What apps do I download?  What apps will improve my quality of life?

And so the hunt starts.  First, I look to see what’s out there.  I have 416,000 apps available for download.

Of those 416,000 choices, 1,200 are apps that are designed to “manage my apps”.  Really?   And of those 416,000 apps, there isn’t a single “App app” that tells me what apps I should get?

And so, hesitant as I was (and remain) about downloading more “stuff” to my phone, I took the leap.  I would dip my toe into the pool.  I would now learn how to Apply myself.  But I would NOT be at the mercy of Angry Birds.  I would grab one sensible app, and be done with it.

A calendar device.  That’s what I downloaded.  And I liked it.  It synced with the rest of my life, gave me a heads up on impending meetings, let me organize my time by providing plenty of notice for project due dates.  Awesome.

But that’s as far as I’ll go as it relates to downlo…  okay, there’s a pretty cool music player that I could use, but that’s it.  Other than those two, I have no need for distracting programs that will do nothing but make my life more diffi…  Okay.  There’s a pretty sweet swiping keyboard that makes things a little simpler.  And there’s a map device that could come in pretty handy.  But that’s it.

And Score Mobile – a great utility for checking my football scores at a glance.  And a guitar tuner.  And a couple of news site apps.  And an app that makes my phone sound like a light saber when I move it around.  Oh!  And a wicked little thing that – when I put my phone over my mouth – it makes it look like I’m talking.  And the “emptying beer app”… that’s a must.

The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need.

Having been a user of cell phones when they were “phones”, I was entirely reluctant to delve into the world where my primary tool for communication becomes a Playstation.  But the truth is they’re pretty amazing devices now; holding more memory than did the primary computer aboard any Apollo mission.

There are some idiotic applications out there.  No question.  Having a Wiggles Songs alarm app isn’t going to make you a more productive individual.  There are, however, some awfully useful tools that were developed specifically with the intention of simplifying your life.  Or maybe even enriching it.  Maybe.

I took too long to recognize the value of these utilities, and didn’t understand that they could, in fact, make my professional life a little simpler.  And to those I mocked for downloading this stuff before I did?

There’s an appology for that.

What apps do you use?  Have they simplified your life, or provided yet another distraction?

Smartphones Anonymous

I feel as though I should start this post with a confession: My name is Jennifer, and I am addicted to my Blackberry.

 

Remember the old days when cell phones did nothing but make phone calls? Heck, remember the even older days when there were no cell phones? Back then, people went to work at the start of the day, and then they went home at the end of the day. That was it. If something happened during the evening or overnight, it was dealt with in the morning. I know it’s hard to believe, but this is a true story – I read about it once in a book.

 

The time when workers left work at work really wasn’t that long ago, and yet here we all are, a world full of people now have their work cells strapped to them at all times, ready to respond instantly to any email or phone call that comes through. After all, we live in a global world that operates 24/7, and the business that lets problems slide without dealing with them ASAP could be the business that doesn’t exist for much longer. It’s a sound business practice to ensure that everyone responds to their customers at any given moment. Here’s the problem: we now have a large segment of the population that can’t put their work away because it’s with them all the time. What started out as a convenience has turned into an addiction. There are a multitude of symptoms to this type of compulsion. See if any of these sound familiar to you:

  1. You are not able to sit at a stop light for more than one minute without checking the phone.
  2. When grocery shopping you check your messages at least once before you head to the cashier.
  3. If you leave the Smartphone at home/work/wherever you currently are not, you feel as though you cannot function until you retrieve the device.
  4. You have been known to check your work email during a meal while on a first date or during your anniversary part or midway through the birth of your child.
  5. When you leave work at the end of the day, you then spend the rest of the evening answering every “urgent” email that comes through on the phone, even if it’s just to thank someone for their email.
  6. You lunge across the table to grab the phone every time it makes a noise, because someone has sent you an e-mail or a BBM or a Tweet or a text and what if you don’t answer back right away? What if you don’t get to it in time? What if you sleep through the Zombie Apocalypse because your Smartphone was not within a one-metre radius of your bed?!

 

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t so common. But you can’t tell me that I’m the only person who thinks this way.

 

Here’s one symptom of Smartphone Addiction that I find particularly fascinating: you have checked your phone because you thought that you heard the phone ring or vibrate, only to discover that you didn’t have a message after all. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve gone running for my work Blackberry because I thought I heard the email alert, only to discover that I don’t have a message. But…I know I heard it. Didn’t I?

 

According to a study that was conducted at the University of Worcester in the UK, the phenomenon of “phantom vibrations” is becoming more and more common. More than 100 volunteers were tested from a variety of professions and the results showed that while the majority of the participants began using Smartphones as a way to make their jobs easier, being constantly plugged in to work drastically increased stress and pressure levels in the workers. The more the stress increased, the greater the compulsion to check the phone even when there was no reason to do so. Of course, the more that the phone was checked, the more work was being done, which greater increases stress levels, and so on. It’s like the song that doesn’t end. This really does go on and on, my friend.

 

So, how do we put an end to this vicious circle of stress and addiction? According to researchers who led the study, the solution lies in the hands of employers who hand out the phones in the first place. Companies are being encouraged by mental health organizations and researchers to tell their employees to turn off the phone and to spend more of their non-work time doing non-work activities. When employees go on vacation or take extended leave, make sure they understand that their phone can stay turned off or even left at the office. In some countries, laws have even been passed to allow a worker to claim paid overtime for checking their work phones after hours. Of course, there are some calls or emails that really are emergencies, and having a Smartphone at hand can help businesses assist their clients and customers better. But do all after-hours emails and phone calls need to be answered with the same level of urgency that is currently occurring? Probably not. Will industry collapse and the economy tank as a result of people putting down the phone long enough to enjoy their meal and tuck their kids into bed? Highly doubtful.

 

Does your company encourage workers to put down the phone when they’re away from the office? Or are you in a job where there is no such thing as “after hours”? If you’re a manager, how do you feel about your employees being disconnected?

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