Smart Phone Addiction, FOMO and Safety at Work

Originally posted on September 18, 2013 @ 5:26 PM

In his latest article Rob Long decided to actually write the way that some people like to be ‘told’. I challenge you all to check if you do have a smartphone addiction and a “FOMO”.

Anyway, you are sure to enjoy this latest article by Rob.

Smart Phone Addiction, FOMO and Safety at Work

I went to the movies last night and couldn’t believe that a person in front of me spent half the movie texting and checking their smartphone. Why go to the movies if you aren’t going to watch the movie? The number of people using smartphones on plane flights during landing and take off is also ‘out of control’. As a regular flyer I observe that many people simply ignore the requests of the airline. I had one guy tell me it didn’t matter because the TV show Mythbusters proved it was a nonsense! Since when did we elect that TV entertainment dictated risk and safety management?

A new phenomena of smartphone addiction is sweeping across Australia, people are bumping into street poles, walking into each other and tripping over gutters as they wander distracted, head buries in their smartphone. In Australia there are more than 16 million mobile handsets in use, a 15 per cent increase compared with 2011. Addiction to smart phones is evidenced in the amount of data downloaded in 2012, skyrocketing by a third in just six months (SMH October 10, 2012). Australians use smartphones more than Americans (Aussies Use Smartphones More Than Yanks, LifeHacker Australia, 16 May 2012, ).

How often must you check your smartphone and must you check it compulsively? In the doctor’s surgery, walking the kids to school, in meetings, over dinner and a traffic lights. Anywhere where you might ‘waste a second’ or be ‘bored’. Whatever happened to contemplation and observation without busyiness?

Smartphones can be addictive because they’re psychoactive. That is, they alter mood and often trigger unpredictable feelings. The compulsion is also known by some as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). This drives the constant need to check the smartphone. If you are interested to see if you have a smartphone addiction check out a smartphone addiction assessment eg.

What are the implications for this growing trend toward smartphone addiction for safety in the workplace? One thing is for sure, distractions, disruptions, interruptions and misdirection have significant implications for workplace safety. Even if a worker is on social media only in breaks this still could mean that when they return to work their mind is not on the job. Some workplaces have now banned the use of smartphones during work hours, but this doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of absent mindedness at the start of the work day. New problems also get created in managing emergencies and privacy. It’s nearly impossible to regulate people’s thinking or pre-work habits.

If smartphone usage poses problem in your workplace then consultation is the place to start. If there is no ownership of the issue then new problems will be created for policing and clandestine use. So, where to start?

1. The first place to start the consultation is to assess and measure the prevalence of smartphone use and determine if it is a problem. A survey and questionnaire, as well as neutral observations of smartphone use should be undertaken.

2. A process of education throughout the organisation should be undertaken if there is a problem. This should include assistance for managers in communicating effectively with those whom they supervise. Any attempt at change needs to be gradual and include ‘buy in’ of all stakeholders.

3. Encourage people to switch their phone off during work. Develop a recognition system to reward people who chose to hand in their phone or lock up their phone during work hours. Connect performance discussions to include smartphone use.

4. Remind people through education campaigns and safety information that smartphone use is dangerous and poor quality communication. Texting and email communications are far more ineffective than face to face discussions.

5. Teach the workforce about FOMO and the importance of prioritisation in time management. A great deal of time is lost in meaningless trivia in social media.

6. Provide smartphone addiction counselling as part of the companies EAP service.

7. Seek a collaborative agreement that all smartphones will be switched off during high risk work. The same could apply for social use of in-house radio systems.

Whatever the approach to try and solve this issue, remember that solutions must be ‘owned’ or there will be no real change.

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