As it appeared in the Daily Nation on September 18th 2018
There is an increased craving for the use of smartphones. Many of us have witnessed it. We have observed security guards glued to their phones instead of taking watch, traffic police directing traffic as they peep on their phones and worse still frontline staff that are absorbed into social media oblivious of the customers waiting to be served. We have seen friends and family casually check their texts while in conversations. I have been reflecting on these and many other situations where the phone is in use almost unconscious. I am worried that many might be falling into smartphone addiction. I am scared that smartphone addiction might have the same repercussions that we have seen in other forms of addiction.
In most workplaces, staff bring along personal smartphones. Some if not most respond to personal calls, they text and worse still they visit social media sites for hours while at work. A while back, I observed a staff at a gym reception. She was busy scrolling through her Facebook page; she did not even notice my presence. After waiting for a little while I remarked “I can see you are busy on Facebook”. The staff simply responded “unajua vitu hizi” meaning “you know these things”. This caught my attention and I started noticing the widespread use of phones at the workplace. In the retail industry for example, it is very common to find a staff at a corner busy scrolling down their phone as customers remain unattended. Could the use of smartphones at the workplace be affecting productivity? Is use of smartphones driving service levels down? Worse still, are some of your team members addicted to their smartphone?
Once famed as the most important business communications tool, the phone has today become a tragic gadget. According to research by comScore an analytics company, in 2017, the average American adult spent approximately 2 hours 51 minutes on their smartphone daily. I believe that the average Kenyan might be spending more time on their phone both productively and detrimentally. According to Evelyn Kasina CEO and Founder of Eveminet Communications, an ICT consultancy firm and an advocate for ethical use of technology, companies need policies that guide the use of smartphones at the workplace. Kasina confirms that phone addiction has reduced our ability to socialize face-to-face and to concentrate. This has negatively influenced productivity.
Many of us need a break up with our smartphones. Like any other addiction recovery, I believe smartphone addiction starts with acknowledging that one has a problem. At a personal level, I am choosing to be intentional about my use and misuse of the smartphone. A few years ago, I bought an alarm clock and reverted to wearing a watch. I no longer use my phone as a watch or an alarm. In addition, my phone does not beep for notifications. I know that there is much more we could all do. Kasina says that on her side she has introduced a gadget basket at her house and office to enhance physical relationships. What about you? What action will you take to avoid the good-for-nothings that come through the smartphone and thus enhance productivity? What action will you take to avert possible smartphone addiction?
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy