Burnout is now officially recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a clinical syndrome, legitimising the physical and mental impact that overwork can have on employees. Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, believes that companies should familiarise themselves with the symptoms of burnout to minimise the potential impact on employees and the business.

“In the fast-paced corporate environment, employees feel they must keep up or risk being overlooked for promotion or a salary increase. Even artisans are under immense pressure due to long hours, demanding customers, and the constant battle to make ends meet,” he says.

Adding further impetus to concerns around burnout is the fact that digital transformation is resulting in jobs becoming more specialised. This is putting even more pressure on people to get their work done as effectively as possible. And in South Africa, with retrenchments a constant fear in the current uncertain economic climate, employees are expected to take on more responsibilities with fewer human resources on hand.

Symptoms
According to WHO, burnout is characterised by three dimensions:
• Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
• Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;
• Reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout is the result of chronic workplace stress that is not successfully managed. Despite the recent classification, it is by no means a new phenomenon and people have been struggling to deal with it for as long as they have had jobs. However, thanks to the connected generation, the issues surrounding this clinical syndrome are now out in the open and decision makers can no longer ignore it.

Education vital
“Despite this, few industries take burnout seriously,” says Myburgh. “Often, it is only if a job relates directly to a person’s safety that managers treat burnout with the respect it deserves. In the corporate environment, employees are typically squeezed until every ounce of their energy is depleted.”
Consequently, education is critical.
“This can involve researching the impact burnout has on the business, running workshops and acknowledging the fact that it is a legitimate problem. People who suffer from burnout should never be told to ‘get over it’ or ‘snap out of it’. Instead, it needs to be managed properly and with consideration for the sufferer.”
Burnout can be viewed as a precursor to depression and if not taken seriously, can lead to other mental health issues that can also negatively impact performance at work.

Minimise burnout
There are several steps employers can take to minimise the risk of their staff suffering from burnout. This includes the obvious step to stop overworking them. Additionally, identify the signs before it is too late, be observant when managers engage with people, and offer counselling if required.

Employees can also do their bit to prevent themselves from burning out.

“People must feel that they are in an environment where it is safe to talk about the feelings they are experiencing,” says Myburgh. “They must be able to have a discussion with their line managers if they are feeling overworked or unable to cope with the demands of their jobs.

“People must also learn to maintain a better work life balance. Yes, the temptation to work from anywhere is there, but this can turn a nine-to-five job into a 24×7 position, which can lead to burnout. Participating in relaxing activities away from the workplace is vital and in extreme cases, burnout sufferers should consider removing themselves from the situation causing the burnout, if this is possible.
“These are difficult times for employees and employers alike. Competitiveness is at an all-time high, resulting in an ongoing pressure to constantly perform at optimum levels. But if the signs of burnout are not heeded, burnout could become seriously detrimental to employees’ general health and wellbeing,” Myburgh concludes.

By Michelle Woo for Lifehacker

Just because ‘there’s an app for that’ doesn’t mean you have to use it. This week we’re going analog, reminding ourselves that we can live—and live well —without smartphones, and seeing what’s worth preserving from the time before we were all plugged in 24/7.

My husband works with steam process equipment and often brings home these big catalogues of products. Only one person in our home has ever had any interest in what was inside (that person would be him)—until we had a kid. Our daughter gets excited whenever she sees “Daddy’s work books”, asking to have the ones he no longer needs so she can circle various items as if she were a real buyer.

Wait, why do we buy toys again?

Hearing from other parents, I learned that little kids love “grownup” work stuff, especially if it lets them pretend to be on the job. You might have some of these items, or you can buy most of them at office supply stores for cheap

Guest checks
Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo writes that guest checks, like the ones restaurant servers use, have been a huge hit with her son: “Toby got these for Christmas and has played with them one million times since then. He’s always taking our orders for elaborate breakfasts, dinners and desserts.”

Prescription pads
Kids like playing doctor, so let them write prescriptions on a legit prescription pad. Just know that they’ll probably write themselves a prescription for three scoops of ice cream and that new Toy Story 4 Lego set. Don’t fall for it.

Lanyard badges
Piriya, a member of the Offspring Facebook group, writes: “Both kids love our old ID lanyards from work. Bonus if the lanyards have the retractable badge holders on them.”

Date stamp
They can play librarian or mark the date on their artwork.

Old business cards
Don’t toss business cards after you’ve digitized the info. My kid used to love putting the cards in her wallet. Same with old hotel key cards, which she calls her “credit cards.”

Tickets
Kids love all types of tickets—carnival style, tear-away stubs, or the ones that come in those take-a-number dispensers. My daughter has created ticketing systems for all of her living room singing performances and storytelling sets. Everyone needs a ticket.

Envelopes
These office envelopes help make kids’ letters feel much more official.

By Melissa Locker for Fast Company

High heels are a pain in the neck—and the foot and the back and the legs for the people who have to wear them. Sure they can look good and feel empowering, but wearing the sky-high footwear should be a choice, not a requirement. And yet in many offices around the world women are forced to wear high heels as part of the office dress code.

In Japan, women are starting to fight back. Over 19,000 people have signed a petition calling on Japan to end dress code requirements that force women to wear heels in the workplace.

The petition was started by Yumi Ishikawa, who says she was made to wear high heels while working at a funeral parlor, the BBC reports. She took to Twitter to vent about being forced to wear heels, and her tweets struck a chord and went viral. That tweet helped ignite a campaign called #KuToo, which, as Kyodo News reports, cleverly references the #MeToo movement as well as the Japanese words for shoes (“kutsu”) and pain (“kutsuu”).

Ishikawa told reporters that the petition was submitted to Japan’s labor officials. The hope is that officials will ban mandatory heels in the workplace on the grounds that such requirements amount to sexual discrimination or harassment.

“I hope this campaign will change the social norm so that it won’t be considered to be bad manners when women wear flat shoes like men,” she told reporters.

So far, the Japanese government is unmoved by the petition. An official at Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s equal employment opportunity division told CNN it had “no plans to change the rules around whether employers could require staff to wear certain clothes or shoes.” Currently, companies can regulate their employees’ work wear as they see fit, and in Japan’s historically patriarchal society, that means high heels (for now).

It’s not just Japan, though. After over 150,000 people signed a petition, the British government still rejected a ban on dress codes that required women to wear high heels in 2017 on the grounds that gender-based discrimination was already illegal and high heels were just a part of looking smart in the office. But that same year, British Columbia did away with a dress code that required female employees to wear high heels, citing the risk of physical injury from slipping or falling as well as possible damage to the feet, legs, and back.

The notion of teamwork is not new, and for most of the twentieth century teams functioned like an assembly line, focusing on areas of expertise and the division of tasks.

“But this siloed work style ended up slowing things down, causing errors and overlooked opportunities,” says Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy.

“To combat this problem, that paradigm gave way in many organisations to open plan offices. According to global office architects and furniture designers Steelcase, 69 percent of all offices now have an open floor plan. But work in these settings is mostly an independent pursuit, interspersed with team meetings and water cooler conversations.

Says Galloway-Gaul: “Without question, the need to reboot the corporate workplace is overdue because while the processes and activities of teams today has dramatically changed, some businesses spaces have not kept up.”

Today work gets done through networks and lateral relationships. Employees who once operated in different universes must come together in interdependent, fluid teams. The spaces that best support this kind of work are designed specifically for teams, while embracing the needs of all the constituent individuals.

“Forget the adage that ‘there is no ‘I’ in team,” says Galloway-Gaul. “Teams are made up of individuals. We need to design for multidisciplinary teamwork in a way that also gives the individual what they need to do their best work.”

There is therefore a growing demand for user control over spaces – people want to be able to adapt spaces at the pace of the project, and to give team members agency in defining how the ‘me’ and the ‘we’ need to work together at a given time.“

But right now, although many organisations have become nimble, there are still businesses in which employees need to file requests with facilities and end up waiting weeks for the changes they’ve asked for. Galloway-Gaul noted. “Project work moves through different phases and each phase has its own set of activities. It’s important that the space can evolve with the project.”

So what do teams need from their work environments?

Teams need a sense of shared purpose, cohesion and identity to be able to successfully work together and build on each others’ ideas. Galloway-Gaul says companies should consider three things to help their teams excel.

1) Build a home for teams – the role of team space is bigger than just supporting the work itself. It’s also about the human dimension. The team space should reflect and encourage the type of practices and working style of the team where they can foster a sense of identity, cohesion and trust.

2) Flex space to process – teams need a dynamic space that keeps up with their process and keeps them in flow. The space should let teams in rapid cycles reorganise in a natural, spontaneous way.

3) Empower teams – teams need control over their environments to cope rapidly with individual preferences and project needs. Empower teams and individuals to make quick adjustments to their space on demand to keep projects moving.

Be wary of recorded conversations

Contrary to popular belief, companies may be within their rights to secretly record conversations with employees and use that information against them in a court of law. However, the reverse is also true.

Nicol Myburgh, Head of the Human Resource Business Unit at CRS Technologies, says this has the potential to significantly change the dynamic in the workplace.

According to Section 4 of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA), it is not illegal to secretly record a conversation you are party to. But it is still illegal to do so as a way of intercepting communications to commit an offence, for example obtaining a person’s bank account information.

“The argument that recording these conversations infringes on an employee’s (or employer’s) right to privacy is outweighed when using the recording in court is in the interests of justice. Of course, there is nothing prohibiting the addition of an explicit clause in employment contracts that mitigates against the risk of having communications intercepted.”

Technology has made it incredibly easy to record conversations without other parties being aware of it. Most smartphones and tablets come standard with audio recording features, making it virtually undetectable when somebody runs the app and puts the phone or tablet out of sight.

“Often, these conversations can be used as evidence in disciplinary hearings and other disputes even before they go to the CCMA or court. Further complicating matters is that courts do not hold privacy rights as absolute. Instead, they take other factors into account that can trump privacy rights.”

An example of this is in Harvey v Niland, where evidence was obtained by hacking into the respondent’s Facebook account. Evidence can therefore be presented in various forms and not necessarily only in the form of an audio recording.

Nevertheless, it remains in the best interests of either party to obtain recordings legally. From an employer perspective, fair process must be followed, with the employee being given an opportunity to respond to the evidence presented against them.

“From a legal perspective, it should also be noted that either party can record a conversation that they are part of. But if you are a third party, you need informed consent from one of the other parties to legally record that conversation. It is often this consent that confuses people into thinking all parties must agree to have a discussion recorded.”

Of course, if the recording is inaudible then it cannot be admissible. Myburgh says that employers or employees therefore need to ensure that the audio can be heard, and that the data is stored in a safe place to avoid it being lost, deleted, or edited in a way that will also make it inadmissible.

“Companies are operating in a dynamic, technology-driven environment. It should always be assumed that any conversation or meeting will be recorded, like assuming all work email will be read by a supervisor. In this way, both the employee and employer can ensure no mismanagement takes place.”

In the race to attract and retain the best talent, dramatically improving the workplace experience to make it a ‘super experience’ is now on the radar of every organisation.

Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, said that as new technologies and design practices raise the bar in what can be achieved, South Africa, as in the rest of the world, is now entering the era of the ‘super-experience’ at work.

A ‘super-experience’ is a heightened experience that creates excitement, is original and impactful and which goes beyond the typical and more mundane ‘user experience’ which people experience at traditional workplaces.

Said Trim: “Super experiences make you feel excited or that you’ve achieved something; they can stimulate curiosity, create a sense of purpose or instil a sense of belonging to a company. They can be unusual and unexpected – or reassuring and morale boosting. They can be small and intimate or executed on a grand scale.”

There are many examples of the ‘super-experience’ at some of the world’s best known companies. These include office buildings such as Amazon’s biophilic glass orbs at its Seattle headquarters which bring people closer to nature creating the sense they are working in a rainforest.

The Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco famously created 16 “neighbourhoods” in the office, each comprising desk spaces, large communal tables, standing desks, phone rooms and personal storage lockers. In South Africa, Giant Leap created state of the art training rooms for new employees at Flight Centre so people got to experience a ‘super-experience’ from day one at the company.

Data and media company Bloomberg’s new base in London is based in two buildings joined by bridges and located between the Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral in London’s famous Square Mile. It features a giant 210 metre ramp at its heart that aims to encourage collaboration between workers, offers and a pantry with free snacks and views over London.

NASA’s scientists have formed a ‘Space Orchestra’ which plays around the world.

“Employee experience wasn’t really on the workplace map a few years ago but many businesses are now scrambling to create experiences inside and beyond office buildings that support innovation, wellbeing, productivity and learning.
“And as part of a newly thriving ‘experience economy’, new job titles are emerging in organisations such as CEXO (Chief Experience Officer),” Trim notes.

She added that to create a ‘super experience’, companies should take a people-first approach, offering a flexible portfolio of experiences, and keeping an open mind on bringing in new technologies.

“The era of the super-experience will depend on new lighting, AV, soundscaping and sensor technologies in the workplace along with digital apps. The property sector will also require new skills, knowledge and ideas from theatre, arts, hospitality, retail and behavioural science if it is to make super-experience more of an occurrence in the workplace,” Trim concludes.

During the last decade, the workplace has undergone dramatic change: but it pales in comparison to how new organisational structures will impact the work environment as we move towards 2020.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “Our ways of working have changed as many societies become wealthier, as consumers demand new types of products and services and as we constantly seek to increase productivity.”

She notes that there are four megatrends, which will have a profound impact on how we work:

The rise of mobile knowledge workers

A knowledge worker uses research skills to define a problem, identify possible solutions, communicate this information and then works on one or several of these possible solutions. “The rise of knowledge workers sets new requirements for office design. Knowledge work is flexible, and knowledge workers are far more likely than other types of workers to work from home and be more mobile.

“The design of the work environment must be adapted to specific work needs as well as suit personal preferences, “ Galloway-Gaul notes.

Burst of new technology

For more than 30 years, IT and mobile advancements have had a profound influence on how we work and it’s likely this exponential advance will continue.
A few emerging technologies are already so advanced that it is possible to gauge their future influence. For example the Internet of Things, a connected network of physical devices, can connect and exchange data, resulting in efficiency improvements, economic benefits, and reduced human efforts. Real time speech recognition and translation will support easier communications between different language speakers and big data will allow companies to recognise patterns and make better decisions.

From Generation X to Generation Y

Generation X describes people born from the early 60s to the early 80s, many of whom hold now senior and work-influential positions in society today. Generation Y, often referred to as millennials, represent the generation that followed Generation X.

Says Galloway-Gaul: “Looking ahead to understand how our ways of working will change, it is necessary to understand what Generation Y need from their workplace, what their characteristics are like and how differently they see the world.” For example millennials tend to be more family-centric which means they are willing to trade higher pay for a better work-life balance. They are also the most tech-savvy generation which makes remote work possible, even desirable. They are achievement orientated and seek frequent new challenges.

Globalisation and the pressure to perform

Globalisation affects how we work in at least two ways. “Firstly, there is a now a larger, global talent pool available which means talent is more geographically dispersed and culturally diverse.

“As we head towards 2020, people will increasingly work with co-workers they have never met before,” Galloway-Gaul says.

Secondly, globalisation increases the pressure to perform. Previously companies could produce goods and have a secure home market with limited competition. “Now many products are sold at similar or more cost effective prices with the same or better service, and innovation is copied by competitors within weeks. This puts the question of whether work or services should be outsourced to other countries on the strategic agenda of any corporation,” Galloway-Gaul concludes.

By lvan lsraelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

One of the many remarkable things about the Labour Relations Act (LRA) is that the term ‘employer’ is not defined. The LRA uses this term very frequently in placing heavy obligations on the employer by dictating that, for example:

• Within 30 days of receiving a notice from a registered trade union the “employer” must meet the union to conclude a collective agreement [Section 21(3)]

• An “employer” must disclose to a trade union representative (shop steward) all information relevant to the performance of his/her effectively [Section 16(2]

• A dismissal is unfair if the “employer” fails to prove the dismissal was for a fair reason or was affected in accordance with a fair procedure [Section 188(1]

It may seem that the reason for the omission of the definition of an employer is that such definition is not necessary because it is obvious. However, more than once, when deciding who is to be held liable, the question of who the employer is has been raised. Is it the contracting company or the contractor’s client? Is it the employment agency or the entity that makes use of its services? Is the closed corporation the employer or is it the members of the cc? Is it the subsidiary company or is it the holding or parent company? The answers to these questions are not always clear cut.

For example, in the case of Group 6 Security Pty) Ltd & another vs Moletsane & others (2005, 11 BLLR 1072) the employee was dismissed after an altercation with the employer. The CCMA ruled that the dismissal was unfair. The arbitrator found that the security company and one of its shareholders were jointly and severally liable for the payment of compensation to the employee and for the employee’s legal costs. The Labour Court, on hearing the review application, ruled that “the veil of a corporate entity may be pierced only when there are allegations of fraud, dishonesty or improper conduct.” In the Group 6 case the Court could find no misdoings. The shareholder who had been found by the CCMA to be jointly liable for the unfair dismissal had merely told the employee that the company was an empty shell and this did not constitute dishonesty. Also, the shareholder had not been a cited party at the arbitration hearing; he had only been a witness. The CCMA had therefore been wrong to make the shareholder jointly and severally liable for the compensation and costs to be paid to the employee.

What would have happened however, if the shareholder had been cited as a co-respondent at the CCMA and if he had been found to have committed an improper act. It is possible that the Court would have allowed the CCMA to look beneath the corporate veil for the person responsible.

In the case of Footwear Trading cc vs Mdlalose (2005, 5 BLLR 452) the employee was dismissed and won an award from the CCMA for compensation. The award was made against the employer, Fila (Pty) Ltd a company closely associated with Footwear Trading. The employee applied to the Labour Court for an order to make the CCMA’s award an order of court. Fila told the Court that it was dormant and that Footwear Trading had taken over certain of its assets. The employee also sought an order declaring Fila and Footwear Trading to be co-employers and therefore jointly and severally liable. Footwear denied that it was joined to Fila claiming that it merely carried out administrative tasks for Fila. The Labour Court rejected this and declared the two companies jointly and severally liable for the compensation payment due to the employee.

Footwear Trading then appealed against this decision to the Labour Appeal Court which found that:

• The LRA does not define “employer” and that therefore the definition of this term must be derived from the definition of an “employee” which is someone who provides services. An employer is therefore a person who “receives services”.

• Legal personality may be disregarded where a corporation is a mere alter ego or conduit for another person

• Footwear Trading was in control of the business even if it was a separate legal entity and not technically the employer.

• Footwear Trading was confirmed to be jointly liable for payment to the employee of compensation and the appeal was therefore dismissed.

The above is a warning to employers that the use of subsidiaries, associate companies and other surrogates for purposes of avoiding labour law obligations is extremely risky. It is far wiser to utilise available labour law expertise to ensure that the law is properly complied with so as to make ducking behind technicalities unnecessary.

So far the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) have been slow to reveal themselves in businesses in South Africa but the scale of the oncoming change is starting to become apparent overseas.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “AI’s influence is growing in the workplace and will bring substantial change to South African offices in the next few years as machine learning, task automation and robotics are increasingly used in business.”

The ability of computers to learn, rather than be programmed, puts a wide range of complex roles within reach of automation for the first time.

Bots and virtual assistants

As machine-learning trained systems gain the ability to understand speech and language, so the prospect of automated chatbots is becoming a reality.

One example is UK electronics retailer Dixons Carphone, which used the Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services to create a conversational bot.

Google demonstrated the potential of chatbots last year with its demo of its Duplex system. Duplex rang up businesses such as a restaurant and a hairdressers booking an appointment while sounding and behaving enough like a human.

“Household names are also muscling into the area of creating a virtual assistant for the enterprise space like Amazon’s Alexa for Business. With many AI-assisted technologies, the aim of using chatbots and virtual assistants appears to be either making existing employees more effective or replacing manual roles,“ noted Galloway-Gaul.

Workplace sensor technology and analytics

Huge amounts of data can now be collected from inexpensive sensors applied to smart decisions. For example, South African workplace sensing technology company MakeSense allows businesses to accurately assess just howmuch of their workplaces they actually use, likely saving a lot of money in the process.

It works by placing small sensors around the office which analyses peoples’ movement.

“Workspace occupancy sensing technology helps businesses understand how desks, meeting rooms and break out spaces are used in extraordinary detail. For example on average 40% of people don’t turn up to meetings so many meetings room are probably too big and are wasted space and cost.”

Machine vision in the workplace

Machine vision is an area of AI that could allow the automation of many manual roles that until recently would have been considered too complex for a computer system to handle.

A case is point is Amazon Go, a grocery store where shoppers just pick up what they want and walk out of the shop with their goods. The system works by using cameras dotted throughout the store to track what each shopper picks up. The shopper is charged when they leave, via an Amazon app on their smartphone.

Robots in the workplace

Robots are nothing new in the workplace, having been a fixture in car manufacturing plants for decades.

“But what’s different today is that robots are beginning to be used for less repetitive and predictable tasks. Robots can increasingly cope with a greater deal of uncertainty in their environment, broadening the tasks they can take on and opening the possibility of working more closely alongside humans.” Galloway-Gaul noted. Amazon again is leading the way in using robots to improve efficiency inside its warehouses. Its knee-high warehouse robots carry products to human pickers who select items to be sent out.

Robotic process automation

Back office tasks like data entry, accounting, human resources and supply-chain management are full of repetitive and semi-predictable tasks.

Increasingly, robotic process automation (RPA) software is used to capture the rules that govern how people process transactions, manipulate data and send data to and from computer systems, in an attempt to then use those rules to build an automated platform that can perform those roles.

“Change is therefore coming to all workspaces all around the world; the trick will be getting AI to help business grow and work well with humans,” Galloway-Gaul concludes.

By Allana Akhtar for Business Insider US 

Being on your phone at work, once the sign of a bad employee, is now the norm.

Text messages are “making deep inroads” in workplaces across America, says Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen. Yet messaging your boss can lead to accidental texts like “Love you” or “pumpkinbear.”

“While email helps silo work communications, the text inbox is a more blended affair, where notes from friends and family jostle with communiqués from bosses and co-workers,” Chen writes.

Besides awkward text exchanges, there are other miscues many employees can make as smartphones become more commonplace at work. For instance, overusing your phone or constantly getting bombarded with notifications can lead to decreased productivity.

“Productivity is often at its apex during a flow state,” when a person is fully immersed in an activity, NYC-based psychotherapist Jordana Jacobs told Business Insider.

According to Jacobs, while phones are great for the technology they provide, they also feed into our natural distracted state. Cell phones take us out of the flow state, “which is so fundamental to productivity,” she said. “Essentially, we are consistently interrupting our own thought process,” she said. To put it simply, our phones “take us away from ‘the now,'” she added.

It’s probably not plausible for you to get rid of your phone at work completely, but you can still take steps to keep it from getting in the way of your goals.

The first step to being more productive is identifying all the ways our phones keep us from staying focused. Jacobs and Jonathan Alpert, psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” broke down the phone habits that are ruining our productivity:

Mindlessly checking emails harms productivity
According to Jacobs, smartphones take us out of being in the present. When we’re constantly checking those work and personal emails, she said it puts us in the mindset of, “I’m doing this rather than just being where I am now.”

Constantly taking photos can keep you from being in the moment
One of the perks of today’s smartphones is that they double as high-quality cameras.

While it’s great to want to take a picture here and there to have a keepsake of a particular moment, Jacobs said that playing paparazzi in our own lives is another way of taking us from living in the now.

Checking social media distracts us from the actual task
Social media can feed our obsession with other people’s lives, but Jacobs said it’s also a platform for us to brag to our followers about what we are doing or have done.

Texting others keeps you from conversing with people around you
Jacobs said that texting and messaging other people can have you more focused on what those people are currently doing, causing a distraction from anything productive that you should be achieving.

Having your phone out all the time keeps you from prioritising
Jacobs said she believes that we have lost the capacity to be alone.

“We now think of the phone as our primary attachment figure; all of the people we know and love live in the phone, that’s how we talk to them,” she said. “We never actually have space by ourselves to contemplate, reflect, or gain insight into the self, in the way we used to be able to.”

Knowing and growing ourselves can be the most productive work we do, and our phones often get in the way of this.

Productivity apps can help and hurt your efforts
While Alpert does think that there are some productivity apps that can be helpful, he said he believes that relying solely on them or downloading the wrong one can actually do the opposite. According to him, the best way to stay productive is to have the right mindset.

“How someone thinks can significantly impact their behaviors, drive, and ultimately their output,” he said. “People should feel encouraged that developing a go-getter mindset is possible.”

Notifications on your screen can be distracting
Alpert said many people do, and these notifications – whether it’s a text message or news alert – can distract you from finishing whatever work you have started. He suggested shutting off social media notifications completely. “These merely serve as a distraction and probably don’t contain anything urgent,” he said.

Opening one app can leads to opening another
With apps, the internet, and other features of smartphones, you can easily find yourself going down a deep rabbit hole of distraction.

“Rarely do people go online or on their phones and stick to the intended reason for checking their phones,” he said. “If they’re checking weather, that might then lead to checking email, messages, or reading a news story – all this serves as a gross distraction and impacts productivity.”

The blue light emitted by your phone impacts sleep quality
According to Alpert, the blue light that is emitted from devices can affect our sleep patterns.

“Blue light is thought to enter the brain through the eyes and impact the pineal gland. This gland plays a role in melatonin production, the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles,” he said. “So devices used close to bed could impact someone’s ability to get proper rest.”

This will have a profound effect on mood, energy levels, and ability to focus and complete tasks, he said.

Since we can look up anything  we may be losing the ability to wonder
This one may not be expressly related to productivity, but it is still concerning.

Jacobs said we have lost our ability to wonder, because we can pretty much look up whatever we need to – the answers to every burning question we may have are always right at our fingertips. “I think this truncates the creativity process and stunts our imaginations,” she said.

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