Could Your Small Business Survive Without Smartphones?

Steve O'ConnorBusiness Operations, Merchant Cash Advance, TechnologyLeave a Comment

Have you ever checked your smartphone while with a customer or negotiating with suppliers? If you think your small business couldn’t survive without smartphones, tablets, or mobile apps, it may be time for a reality check

For many small business owners, the
smartphone has become as essential as a website, an email address, and a phone
number. Clients increasingly expect you to be accessible after 5:00pm, on the
weekends, and even on vacation. The idea is that this level of accessibility
should contribute to increased revenues, better client relationships, and
improved operations.

Smartphones have been found to boost
business productivity
: productivity apps are simple and make it easy to
access files, take notes, and so on when you’re not in front of a desktop
computer; virtual assistants remind you of appointments and make it easy to
locate information quickly. Even something as simple as changing the
scenery—like packing up and working
from the coffee shop
—is more viable with your smartphone by your side. You
don’t need to worry about missing the call or email you’re expecting.

But are we taking smartphone usage too far?
A 2013 AT&T
poll
found:

  • 98% of small businesses use
    some form of wireless technology (smartphone, tablet, etc.) as part of
    day-to-day operations
  • 66% of these businesses felt
    they couldn’t survive without their wireless technologies
  • 47% of small businesses that
    use mobile apps claim they couldn’t survive without them
  • 40% of small businesses enable
    employees to use mobile technologies to work away from the office.

Although it’s unrealistic to think that
your business can completely unplug from wireless technologies, there are
several reasons to unplug from technology outside of business hours. To answer
our opening question: the answer is probably “yes, your business can survive
without a smartphone.” Forbes writes, “restricting our use
of gadgets in the evening hours is probably a pretty smart move” for a variety
of reasons, including stress recovery and mental health.

Unplugging
Leads to Improved Productivity & Concentration

Before the advent of the smartphone, few
employees regularly took work home, but times have changed: 83%
of employees check email after work, 67% take smartphones or laptops on
vacation, and 50% admit to sending emails during meals with family and friends.
But an increasing body of research shows that downtime is essential to high
performance. The Harvard Business Review wrote last
summer, “Many modern workers find it hard to take downtime. The idea of leaving
work so cleanly at the office seems quaint in a world of smartphones.”
Researchers conducted a study
at Boston Consulting Group, where they discovered that the urge to continuously
check a smartphone did keep participants in touch with the office, but the cost
was great. Participants disconnected during non-work hours and took predictable
time off each week. This process of disconnecting led to improved team
productivity and work-life balance for employees—which led to the firm’s
enhanced employee retention and recruitment efforts. (Interestingly,
disconnecting did not cause work to fall through the cracks; BCG’s clients reportedly
were thrilled with the results.)

Boston Consulting Group is not the only
firm to recognize the benefits of unplugging and downtime from work. Companies
like Google have begun placing
limits
on connectivity and smartphone usage as a way to combat employee
burnout and improve productivity through increased downtime. Writes
Leslie Perlow
, author of the Boston Consulting Group study, “Smartphones
and other wireless devices give us the power to stay connected and free us from
the shackles of the office. But that power brings ever-increasing demands to
deliver to clients, customers, and superiors. We feel overwhelmed, overworked,
and never free of interruption.” Interruption and its cousin, multitasking,
also have a negative impact on productivity and concentration. People who
multitask don’t actually accomplish more; they accomplish as much as 40%
less
than people who remain focused on a single activity. Even something as
simple as email and phone call distractions can have this downward impact on
productivity.

The implications are clear: smartphones do
enable your employees to be both more mobile and more connected. But unplugging
during non-work hours, along with planned downtime, are just as essential as
that connectedness. Placing limits on smartphone usage for you and your
employees can help your business achieve improved productivity, enhanced
project outcomes
, and employee retention.

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