A couple of decades ago, the main distraction at work was the office water cooler. Today, however, there is an enormous array of digital incentives for employees to pick up their smartphones to send and receive text messages, photos, and video, or visit social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn throughout the workday.

While these distractions create inefficiencies on the job and add costs to the bottom line, the widespread and growing use of smartphones is creating a much more serious problem: the breakdown of social relationships at work. Instead of paying attention to what their coworkers say in one-on-one conversations and in team and group meetings, employees are often engrossed in their smartphones. As a result, they become part-time participants in these discussions, missing out on key points while earning the ire of their coworkers, vendors, and customers.

But how do you know if you're a social media addict?

According to psychologists Mark Griffiths and Daria Kuss, answering "yes" to a few of these six questions means you probably are, and that you would greatly benefit from a digital detox:

  • Do you spend a lot of time, when you're not online, thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
  • Do you feel urges to use social media more and more over time?
  • Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?
  • Do you often try to reduce your use of social media, without success?
  • Do you become restless or troubled if you are unable to use social media?
  • Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your job, relationship, or studies?

If you've become a social media addict at work, and it's interfering with your efficiency and effectiveness and getting in the way of your working relationships, then a digital detox is in order.

Become aware of the problems your addiction is creating, and focus on breaking your dependence on your smartphone. Take small steps, such as locking your phone in your desk for an hour or two at a time, or turning it off during meetings. Listen--really listen--to what your coworkers have to say and engage with them fully, not while reading your Facebook feed or texting your family or friends.

According to Griffiths and Kuss,

"While the majority of our behaviors around social media may be annoying rather than dangerous, they are nonetheless indicative of a societal problem. Steps need to be taken now, while the number of social media addicts is still small. We shouldn't wait to see if it becomes an epidemic."

In other words, it's not too late.

Published on: Apr 27, 2018