TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Should Law Schools Ban Smartphones In Faculty Offices?

No iPhoneWall Street Journal, ‘I Lost It’: The Boss Who Banned Phones, and What Came Next:

Many managers are conflicted about how—or even whether—to limit smartphone use in the workplace. Smartphones enable people to get work done remotely, stay on top of rapid business developments and keep up with clients and colleagues. But the devices are also the leading productivity killers in the workplace, according to a 2016 survey of more than 2,000 executives and human-resource managers conducted by CareerBuilder, an HR software and services company.

There is also some evidence that productivity suffers in the mere presence of smartphones. When workers in a recent study by the University of Texas and University of California had their personal phones placed on their desks—untouched—their cognitive performance was lower than when their devices were in another location, such as in a handbag or the pocket of a coat hanging near their workspace.

“I firmly believe that multitasking is a myth,” says Bill Hoopes, an IT project manager at L3 Technologies Inc. Mr. Hoopes put his convictions into practice at group gatherings when he took over a team of about 25 people at the aerospace defense company three years ago. “Every time someone’s phone went off, they had to stand for the rest of the meeting,” he says. Before long, he asked the group to leave their phones at their desks when two or more people got together. 

Over time, he says, he has noticed not only an improvement in the quality of conversation and ideas in meetings, but also that his people seem to show more respect and appreciation for one another’s work. ...

Mat Ishbia, CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, banned technology from meetings about two years ago. ... Mr. Ishbia is now piloting another solution to phone addiction. A group of about 250 workers are part of an experiment in which they refrain from all personal phone use at their desks. If they want to use their devices they must go to a common area designated for phone use and socializing. Forty-five days into the trial run, workers are checking their phones a lot less, he said.

Bryan Lee, a product manager at enterprise software company Docker Inc., suspected that his daily phone use was a problem, so last month he installed an app called Moment on his iPhone that tracks the total amount of daily time he spent on his phone. His first measurement revealed four hours in a day. Since early April, he’s reduced that to roughly an hour.

At work, Mr. Lee persuaded his team of eight to download the app and post their daily phone hours on a whiteboard. The team member with the lowest time gets bragging rights. “We’re thinking of having a trophy we can pass around—or maybe just shaming the loser,” he says.

Update:  From Glenn Reynolds:  The wisdom of Kayne West:


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