4 Ways to Keep Mobile Tech from Hindering Productivity in the Workplace

Don't let a BYOD policy -- and we're not talking alcohol here -- get in the way at your office.

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By Heather R. Huhman

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Move over BYOB (beer), it's all about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in today's workplace. The rise of mobile workers, business and collaboration has made mobile devices an essential workplace tool. In fact, Wrike's 2016 Mobile Productivity Report found that 90 percent of the more than 850 professionals surveyed said they viewed the use of a mobile device as critical to getting their jobs done.

Related: Survey Finds Mobile Devices Lure Us Into Working Longer, But No One Objects Much

Yet, while the report made it clear that mobile devices are a necessary tool for today's workers, it also revealed that 30 percent of professionals surveyed thought their mobile devices hindered their work-life balance.

So, which is it? Are mobile devices helpful work tools -- or stress machines?

To assure that employees get the most from their devices, employers need to set parameters for these devices' use, both in and outside the office. With the right parameters in place, mobile tech will continue to help, not hurt productivity. Here are four guidelines:

1. Pick the right tool for the task.

All mobile devices are not created equal. As such, some devices are better suited for certain tasks than others. Different employees will need different tools, devices and apps to get their work done efficiently.

Seventy-two percent of professionals surveyed in the Wrike study, for instance, said mobile devices weren't ideal for detailed work or long-form writing. But they did see them as a big asset for sending email (98 percent), using search engines for work (87 percent), viewing documents and files (81 percent) and using project management or collaboration apps (81 percent).

To help employees make the most of their mobile devices, provide them with the right tools and resources. Don't overwhelm them with tech or burden them with having to learn multiple devices or programs -- give each employee what makes sense for his or her role.

Related: How to Boost Productivity With 'Social Bookmarking' Tools

2. Set limits.

While mobile technology can make us more productive, it can also foment burnout. The 2015 Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index found that about a quarter of the 2,602 employees surveyed said they regularly worked after the standard workday was done. What's more, about four out of 10 of those employees worked on weekends at least once a month.

With mobile technology enabling us to access work-related items whenever and wherever, it's no wonder that so many employees continue to respond to emails or think about work long after clocking out for the day.

To avoid mobile-induced burnout, set time limits on when emails may be sent, opened or responded to, and when platforms and apps may be accessed, to give everyone some much-needed down time.

Above all, don't tempt employees to work in the evening or on their days off, sending emails that can wait. This way, employees will achieve a better work-life balance and feel more productive during work hours.

3. Adopt a 'face-first' policy.

Email can be the most efficient communication tool, or it can be the biggest time-waster. In fact, about half of employees surveyed in the Staples study acknowledged receiving too many emails; about one-third of those employees said email overload hurt their productivity.

To keep communication flowing, adopt a "face-first" policy, where everyone uses face-to-face communication first, if possible. After all, there's no need to send a neighboring co-worker an email -- which may or may not get read in time for that 2 p.m. meeting -- if the recipient's desk is within walking distance.

Not only does such a policy ensure questions are answered and important items are received in a timely manner, it keeps inboxes from overflowing -- and who doesn't want that?

4. Support flexibility.

While mobile technology may make it tempting to work from home or sit on a beach in the Bahamas, the flexibility that mobile devices create can also make employees more productive. In fact, 59 percent of employees surveyed in the Staples study said flexible schedules were a key factor to productivity.

Use mobile tools to make flexibility possible and easier to manage for leaders, HR and employees. Tools like WISP, a mobile employee Intranet, can keep employees connected, no matter where they work. Just be sure that the right parameters are in place to keep staffers from working when they shouldn't.

Related: The 15 Best Productivity Apps for Getting Things Done

What are some other ways to keep mobile technology from hurting productivity at work? Share in the comments below!
Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

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