May 16, 2018
‘I Lost It’: The Boss Who Banned Phones, and What Came Next
Employers limit cellphone use to regain attentiveness. Workers use watches and laptops instead.
Two thousand six hundred seventeen times a day. That is how often the average person taps, pokes, pinches or swipes their personal phone.
It all adds up to about 2 hours and 25 minutes, according to a study by mobile app research firm Dscout Inc. And a good chunk of that time comes during work hours.
Jason Brown had had enough of it. Two years ago, the chief executive of Brown, Parker & DeMarinis Advertising paused for a moment to look across the meeting room as he delivered a presentation. The majority of those gathered were fiddling with their phones.
“I lost it,” says Mr. Brown.
In his anger, he issued a companywide edict: “Don’t show up at a meeting with me with your phone. If someone shows up with their phone, it’ll be their last meeting.”
Many managers are conflicted about how—or even whether—to limit smartphone use in the workplace. Smartphones enable people to get work done remotely, stay on top of rapid business developments and keep up with clients and colleagues. But the devices are also the leading productivity killers in the workplace, according to a 2016 survey of more than 2,000 executives and human resource managers conducted by CareerBuilder, an HR software and services company.
There is also some evidence that productivity suffers in the mere presence of smartphones. When workers in a recent study by the University of Texas and University of California had their personal phones placed on their desks—untouched—their cognitive performance was lower than when their devices were in another location, such as in a handbag or the pocket of a coat hanging near their workspace.