Four Ways Smartphones Influence Social Norms and Employee Engagement

Authors, Title and Publication

Derks, D., Duin, D., Tims, M., & Bakker, A. B. (2015). Smartphone use and work–home interference: The moderating role of social norms and employee work engagement. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 88, 155–177.

This article aims to shed light on the relationship between daily smartphone use and daily work–home interference (i.e., a process of negative interaction between the work and home domain, WHI). Communication technologies in general and the smartphone in particular have enabled employees to stay connected to their work any place any time. One major advantage of the increased flexibility facilitated by smartphone use is that it can help employees to combine their work and non-work responsibilities. However, research on smartphone use has also consistently shown that the boundaries between work and family life become permeable, which may increase the risk of an imbalance between work and family life. The authors in this article intend to examine how social norms regarding the work–home boundary in general, and availability in specific, moderate the daily impact of smartphone use on WHI. They also predict that employees’ daily work engagement will qualify the relationship between daily smartphone use and daily WHI.

The researchers used a 4-day quantitative diary study (N = 100 employees, N = 367–400 data points). Participants were employees who had been in the possession of a smartphone for work purposes and that their supervisor had introduced the smartphone to them and taken complete care of all smartphone-related expenses. Results showed that there is a positive relationship between daily smartphone use in the evening and daily WHI. Such relation is stronger for employees who have to deal with high expectations of their supervisor. Also, employees who experience normative pressure of colleagues to stay connected experience more WHI on days that they are confronted with an increase in smartphone use. Additionally, employees’ daily work engagement significantly moderates the relation between daily smartphone use and daily WHI. On days that employees use their smartphone intensively, low-engaged employees experience significantly more WHI than high-engaged employees.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should 1) be careful in creating expectations regarding availability when they decide to provide smartphones to their employees; 2) be transparent about what is expected and to make employees aware of the potential pitfalls of smartphone use regarding a disturbed work–home balance; 3) aim to foster work engagement among their employees; and 4) find ways to optimize smartphone use without losing consideration for a healthy work–home balance.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/joop.12083/abstract  (abstract free, purchase full article)

 

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