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Prioritizing the phone over a partner affects relationship and workplace creativity, but only for women

Phone use is disrupting social interaction and the support couples provide each other in balancing work and family responsibilities.

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Focusing attention on your mobile phone instead of your partner doesn’t just strain your relationship, it also affects women’s creativity in the workplace.

This is according to a study – “The more you connect, the less you connect: An examination of the role of phubbing at home and job crafting in the crossover and spillover effects of work-family spousal support on employee creativity” by Siqi Wang, Yasin Rofcanin, Mireia Las Heras, and Zeynep Yalabik – that was published in the Journal of Occupational and Oranizational Psychology.

The negative effects of “phubbing”, or the idea of snubbing someone in favor of your phone, is known particularly on relationships and mental wellbeing. This newer study simply pointed to repercussions in the workplace, but only for the female partner.

“Phone usage is eroding the connection between couples and hindering their capacity to discuss and address stresses and concerns that are playing on their mind,” said co-author Rofcanin.

“Supportive interactions at home have a positive crossover effect on partners, enhancing their creativity in the workplace. However, this spiral of support is lost when individuals are absorbed in phone scrolling, missing out on these valuable moments of connection.”

Previous research from a similar study setup shows that supportive interactions with co-workers extend to the home environment, benefiting partners in loving relationships and contributing to enhanced creativity in the workplace.

However, the effect only works for women. The researchers said women seem more adept at translating this support into workplace creativity, possibly because expectations on women to juggle home and work push them to pursue support networks and seek out family-friendly work policies.

“These findings around phubbing hold particular relevance in the post-pandemic era, where hybrid working arrangements have become increasingly prevalent,” said Rofcanin. “As organizations navigate this new landscape, it’s crucial to consider the impact of home dynamics on employee productivity and well-being.”

The researchers hope that the findings will contribute to employer thinking on boundaries around using technology for working out of hours, and that it will underline the importance of policies that support work-family balance, such as flexible working schedules.

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Co-author Wang said: “In fostering a supportive work-family environment, close collaboration between HR managers and employees’ first-line supervisors is essential. Employers can benefit from work-family supervisor training programs emphasizing communication and limiting technology use, particularly for work purposes.”

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