LOS ANGELES – Virtual offices are all about productivity, but some tried and true virtual office accessories can actually make you less productive.
According to new university-based research, greater connectivity via smartphones comes at a cost. Indeed, the study authors reveal using a smartphone to cram more work into a given evening results in less work done the next day. The reason: smartphones are bad for sleep, and sleep is very important to effectiveness as an employee.
“That a well-rested employee is a better employee is well established by research. To note just a few recent studies, insufficient sleep has been linked to more unethical behavior at work, cyberloafing, and work injuries, and less organizational citizenship behavior,” write Christopher M. Barnes, Klodiana Lanaj and Russell Johnson, professors at University of Washington, University of Florida, and University of Michigan, respectively.
“Unfortunately, smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep. Because they keep us mentally engaged with work late into the evening, they make it harder to psychologically detach from the most pressing cares of the day so that we can relax and fall asleep. More generally they encourage poor sleep hygiene, a set of behaviors that make it harder to both fall asleep and stay asleep. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of smartphones to avoid is that they expose us to light, including blue light. Even small amounts of blue light inhibit the sleep-promoting chemical melatonin, meaning that the displays of smartphones are capable of producing this effect.”
So what’s a virtual office professional to do? Harvard Professor Leslie Perlow suggests having a predictable time off. The study authors suggest the best way to start is by agreeing that evenings and normal sleeping hours are the most important times for people to be predictably “off.” This, they say, will allow employees to psychologically disengage from work and minimize exposure to the blue light produced by electronic display screens.
“Another potential solution calls for creating new norms as to when employees are expected to respond to work email and when they are not. Leaders should be sensitive to how their personal behaviors shape norms; employees will not feel pressure to check their mail late in the evening if their bosses aren’t using that time to send messages,” the authors write.
“A handy tool is to set a delivery delay on email such that it arrives the next morning. With this approach, managers who are traveling or working odd hours can still communicate at their convenience, but minimize the negative effects on others.”