Why playing on your smartphone at work might make you more productive


Playing Angry Birds on your phone? Snapchatting your best friend a picture of your lunch? Tweeting your exact thoughts on last night's "Game of Thrones" episode? All of these behaviors could actually make your workday more productive.

According to new research done by Kansas State University, smartphone microbreaks might benefit overall productivity at work. Sooyeol Kim, a doctoral student in psychological sciences, conducted a study with 72 employees from various industries. He installed an app on their phone to monitor how much they used their phone at work. The employees averaged 22 minutes of personal smartphone time during an eight-hour work week.

As NPR points out, this isn't a lot of time, considering that most Americans work through lunch and don't take many vacations. At the end of each day, the employees recorded their overall well-being. The study found that the employees who took phone breaks were happier than those who did not take any at all. Kim says that the smartphone breaks helped workers deal with stress by allowing them to connect with their family or friends and take a mental break from the demanding pressures at work.

"We need to understand how we can help people recover and cope with stressors. Smartphones might help and that is really important not only for individuals, but for an organization, too," Kim says.

But that doesn't mean that you should enter into an hour-long Words with Friends battle. Smartphone breaks, Kim says, must be done with moderation. Shorter breaks will act as a refresher but won't waste too much productivity time. He presented the research, which is part of his overall research on workplace microbreaks, at the 29th annual Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Conference in May.

A growing number of studies suggest that taking short breaks from work increases productivity and creativity. Research has shown that walking around the office, chatting with colleagues and even taking a nap have all been proven to increase productivity. But Kim's research is one of the first to address the topic of cell phone breaks. The human mind isn't structured to function with nonstop concentration for eight hours a day. So these short phone breaks act like any other type of break in how they refresh the mind.

There is also a certain creative lore associated with "goofing off." Albert Einstein is thought to have conceived the theory of relativity not while plugging away at his desk but while riding a bicycle. So are you playing Flappy Bird or contributing to your next flash of genius? Now, you can do both.

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