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Science of Work

Study: Your partner’s cell phone use might be dragging down your career

Your spouse answering his boss’s call at home could be wrecking your career.

A new study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that a spouse’s cell phone use at home can lead to a lower sense of job performance and satisfaction for their partner.

Study: Smartphone use during family time leads to poorer job performance

The study surveyed 344 married couples who worked full-time about their mobile phone use. The partners who watched their spouses use a smart devices during family time at home reported lower job satisfaction and rated themselves as weaker performers at work.

So why does our partner’s phone scrolling impact us at work?

The study suggested that using smartphones during family time created relationship tension that “spills over to work outcomes for the spouse in the form of reduced job satisfaction and performance.”


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What employers can do

The researchers suggest that employers can avoid productivity and employee engagement losses by keeping their professional interactions to work hours.

“It’s really no surprise that conflict was created when a spouse is using a mobile device at home,” Wayne Crawford, one of the study’s authors, said. “They’re sometimes engaging in work activities during family time. What that ultimately leads to, though, is trouble at work for both spouses. So, whether companies care or don’t care about employees being plugged in, those firms need to know that the relationship tension created by their interaction with their employees during non-work hours ultimately leads to work-life trouble.”

When you contact your employee after hours, recognize that this decision is likely to negatively impact their personal life, creating a negative mood that they are going to carry with them the next day at work.

The research behind how technology at work can hurt us

Research has found that mindlessly using technology can negatively impact employees. Our devices are addictive, and when we see our coworkers holding them in their hands, we feel like they’re too distracted to listen to us. One study found that employees who saw their bosses holding their phones in work interactions felt snubbed by them and said that they did not trust their boss to support them.

This study takes that research one step further, showing us how technology at work can impact both professional and personal relationships. When you bring your work home with you, the decision will not only affect you, it may professionally affect your partner as well.

The bottom line

Looking at your phone at home in front of your spouse can signal to your partner that your phone is the most important relationship in the room.

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