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Time to Switch Off

15 August 2014 | Updated 01 January 1970

There was a time when holidays meant you could leave everything behind you and watch the sun rise and fall behind the mountaintops without a care in the world.

The difference now is that we see fellow holidaymakers (and ourselves) tapping away at out smartphones, eagerly looking at what has arrived in the e-mail tray and even contacting colleagues to deal with a matter that once could wait until your return.

A number of studies have shown that many are not allowing themselves the opportunity to leave work behind them and properly enjoy the time they have on holidays.

The reasons for this can be many, from a basic insecurity and need to prove how ‘diligent’ they are, to a fear of coming back to a mountain of work that other colleagues have failed to touch during their absence.

Smartphone Stress can be the outcome, although some research has pointed that a degree of obsessive behaviour could be down to social, rather than work related issues. One such study by Richard Balding at the University of Worcester, has made this link but admitted that work should not be discounted. The study made clear that employers should be aware of the added stress and negative impact smart phones could have on their staff.

"The negative impacts of this 'always on' behaviour are that your mind is never resting, you're not giving your body time to recover, so you're always stressed,” Dr Christine Grant, an occupational psychologist at Coventry University's Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, told the BBC: "The fact that we can stay connected to the workplace wherever we are in the world is feeding deep-seated insecurities.”

Some companies are responding to this problem in a way that can stop their staff ‘connecting’ to the workplace when they should be recharging their batteries. Daimler, the German vehicle maker, has in place an automatic e-mail delete policy, whereby a message will state the person is away on holiday with a named alternative in the period but that will erase any messages should any attempt be made to leave anything. Imagine those hundreds of e-mails that don’t have to be sifted through on return from Lanzarote.

This is fine as far as it goes but it does not recognise when people are reacting badly to misuse or obsession with smartphones. A test that has been developed in the USA may be the answer to this.

Using a tube, some software and a saliva sample, people and their doctors can now measure levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to new research presented at ICE/ENDO 2014, the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society in Chicago.

"We have designed a method by which anyone with a smartphone will be able to measure their salivary cortisol level quickly, easily and inexpensively," explained Dr Joel Ehrenkranz, Director of diabetes and endocrinology at Intermountain Healthcare in Murray, Utah. The smartphone test will cost less than US$5 and give results in under 10 minutes.

When such a test could be available in the UK is not known but if and when it does arrive, it could prove invaluable to both employers and staff. They may know objectively when behaviour could be endangering their performance at work and general wellbeing.

It may even lead to a greater appreciation of the sunrises and sunsets and how smartphones could be used as aids to capturing a spectacular moment on holiday, rather than a file on paper clips has gone missing.


Picture: Wish you were here or do I? Smartphones can be a pest on holiday 

Article written by Mike Gannon | Published 15 August 2014


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