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Blocking out the distraction

We’ve all been there, noticed it, or felt annoyed by it; the smartphone is taking up more and more of our time. And that’s perfectly understandable, because they’re just too damn handy to ignore. But just how deep does it affect our results, our relationships, or our lives even? When even the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers are raising the alarms about the rising effects of addiction, you know that something’s up.

The Smartphone Addiction is bad for you

According to an article by the Wall Street Journal, there’s a measurably negative effect on our brains. By becoming dependent on the smartphones’ convenient technological solutions, our intellect weakens. Why use your mind to make calculations when your phone can do it faster, more efficiently and less prone to errors? Or why think of complex answers to difficult questions when the answers are literally at the tips of your fingers?

Another example is presented by the New York Times, who claim that smartphones are killing our manners, and our moods in the process. How many dinners have been ruined by the company browsing their phones rather than the menu? Or talking via Messenger or WhatsApp rather than partaking in actual, face-to-face human interactions? This so-called “inattentional blindness” is said to remove us from reality, effectively absorbing us in our own little world.

The article further states that besides putting a reasonable dent in our capacities to interact socially, the physiological effects are becoming noticeable as well. Text-necks (yes that’s a thing) are becoming more pronounced throughout our society, just take a look at what’s happening at any time in any random train compartment around the world. Odds are, most people you’re looking at are looking at their phones. Heck, you’re probably doing it yourself. Putting such a strain on your body can cause neck hernias, pinched nerves and posture issues. Maintaining a correct posture might seem irrelevant, but research shows that it positively influences our mood, our behaviour and even our memory. Turns out your third-grade teacher was absolutely right when she told you to sit up straight.

Smartphones at work: productivity killer?

When something that everyone owns affects our interpersonal relationships so heavily, it has to have some effect on our professional results as well. And as it turns out, it does. A 2017 survey held by OfficeTeam showed that in general, the average office employee spends roughly 56 minutes a day on their phones. That adds up to almost 5 full hours in a regular work week. And those figures increase when just observing the younger employees. So yes, smartphones do kill our productivity. Which raises the question, how should we deal with it?

The answer is not simple. Most of us simply need our phones for work, and in today’s day and age, walking around with an ancient cellphone used for calls only simply won’t suffice. One solution lies in the user’s ability to show self-restraint. Refusing to use your phone for anything other than work is a start. Or using a screen-time app and sticking to it. But this will be easier for those running their own business, or for the really dedicated employees who feel a personal connection to their employer and job. The standard payroll employee who sits behind a desk will still watch that funny cat video after receiving a notification.

Something that will decrease the number of stimuli received from the always-on screen is to leave your phone off of your desk, and to only use it when you actually need it. Decreasing screen-time is one way of not letting your smartphone addiction impact your professional results, but there’s a lot that be done to improve your interpersonal relationships as well. A suggestion made by the Huffington Post to improve the quality of meetings and your success, is to leave phones out of all meetings altogether. This way, the task at hand is receiving the attention it deserves, as are your colleagues. Unless you’re expecting a very important phone call, calling back or answering can always wait 30 minutes.

Just block it

Another way to simply block out your phones is by establishing a set of rules that has everyone leaving their phone in a box on the table upon entering a meeting, dinner, or at home of course. The annoying part of this is always having to turn down your phone, or always having to set it on silent. And then there’s always going to be that one person who keeps on forgetting to do so. Causing a series of muffled noises coming out of the box, or worse, lets the box vibrate with such intensity you might as well hold your meeting on a construction site. That’s where the team from Block comes in. They came up with a fast, immediate solution with a box in the shape of a hexagon (we love it!), simply called Block. The difference with these good-looking boxes, is that they require no preparations from the user whatsoever. The box itself is a so-called Faraday cage, a metal construction designed to keep all kinds of signals out (or in). This way, your phone is absolutely and 100% offline. Talk about taking your precautions to the next level.

No matter which way we turn it, the smartphone is here to stay. We’ve grown too attached to having the world in our hands to let it go now, so the best way to deal with it is the same as any other addictions; try to avoid it altogether or use it with moderation and remember to pay attention to your surroundings.

At Spaces, we like to think about the problem at hand and provide a solution in the process as well. That’s why in The Netherlands, we will be selling Block at our pop-up shop at Spaces Vijzelstraat from December 17th, and offering them for our meeting rooms after that. So whether you want one for your office, for those comfy family dinners, or just because they look so good in your home – this is your time to stand up to the smartphone.

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