From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Phones, PDAs and Email Annoy Co-workers and Increase Stress

Fed up with coworkers perpetually checking their emails mid-conversation or business associates who take phone calls during meetings? A survey by the University of Surrey indicates that you’re not alone. But more than just a little bit of added irritation to the workday, the survey also indicates that electronics in the workplace, particularly as they’re used by coworkers, are increasing stress for everyone.

It’s not the devices as much as how they’re being used that’s building stress in the workplace, particularly when the usage is seen as inappropriate. For example, over half of the survey’s respondents felt using any type of personal office electronic equipment during a meeting was wrong, while a mere 11 percent felt it was okay to leave a mobile phone on during a meeting and over 80 percent believed it was wrong to read or send text messages in the presence of others.

Overall, researchers found that there was generally accepted and unwritten electronics etiquette, particularly for the use of mobile phones, in the workplace. In particular, if a meeting or conversation took a backseat to a phone call, a text message or an email, respondents considered it inappropriate.

The researchers’ focus for the study was what happened to others in the office when a coworker’s cell phone rang during a meeting and how that phone call affected the people who weren’t receiving the call. The answer of the respondents: the call increased everyone’s level of stress. “We become stressed and impatient when we can’t reach someone, yet we resent distractions and can become angry when our own meetings are interrupted by a mobile phone,” researcher Michael Warren of the University of Surrey told the BBC.

Other studies have agreed with Warren’s findings. The annual Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lemelson-MIT invention index, found that the cell phone was the at the top of the list for the single most hated invention that, while resented, respondents still felt they couldn’t do without.

While nearly every personal, portable electronic device has had its critics, the cell phone in particular has come under fire for its poor ergonomics