Jamie Patterson: Technology addiction needs tackling

Smartphone sales continue to thrive. Picture: PA

Smartphone sales continue to thrive. Picture: PA

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THE nation’s fixation with technology has never been higher.

Smartphone sales continue to thrive, with internet analytic company comScore noting last year that 64 per cent of the UK population own a mobile device. In addition, 82 per cent of mobiles purchased in December 2012 were smartphones.

But in the workplace, our obsession with transportable technology may be having an effect on our productivity. Repetitive distraction from core work tasks to tend to our smartphones is a potential sign of technology addiction.

This may influence occupational stress levels as core tasks are delayed while we attend to messages and calls. Refreshing social media feeds and checking personal e-mail is not only off putting, but also erodes work time.

Another sign of an unhealthy attachment to mobile devices is the so-called phantom vibration syndrome. This is when sufferers mistake sensory stimulation, such as our clothing rubbing against our leg, as a mobile phone ringing or vibrating.

Awaiting e-mails, calls and texts can trigger restlessness and irritability that leads to a poorer performance in the workplace.

“Fear of losing out” can contribute to occupational stress. Having a tablet or mobile device turned on helps some feel safer, but is a double-edged sword. When on leave, some employees feel the need to respond to e-mails.

There are variety of ways to manage occupational stress. Diaphragmatic breathing, a balanced diet and regular exercise aid well-being. Breaking up larger tasks into smaller components and ticking off achievements can also reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. There is a misconception that multi-tasking is more accomplished but it can be counter-effective. Mono-tasking should be encouraged.

Recognising the early signs of smartphone reliance is essential to preventing it becoming an addiction. This is not only important for the well-being of the individual, but also the company.

Combating technology-based occupational stress is a must before our batteries run out completely.

• Jamie Patterson is a cognitive behavioural psychologist at Abermed/International SOS.

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