Is Your Mobile Device Good For Business, But Bad For The Family?

Sixty percent (60%) of small business owners admit that they spend more time holding their mobile devices than the hand of their significant others. If that doesn’t tell us something about the pervasiveness of mobile communications, and our priorities, I’m not sure what does.

That finding comes to us from the Staples 5th Annual Small Business Survey (PDF), based on 300 U.S. small businesses having no more than 20 employees.

I was struck by several of the points made in the survey about mobile communications, suggesting how profoundly mobile devices have not only changed our business lives, but our personal lives, too. Depending on how you look at it, the results could be good, bad or a mix of both.

The impact of mobile technology on our life-work balance

For the most part, small business owners and managers tend to consider the virtual office to be a gift, according to the responses in the survey.  We can draw 3 positive impacts on our lives due to the virtual office and use of mobile communications:

  1. We are less tied to our desks — like 56% of the owners and managers in the survey
  2. We can be more productive, professionally, by working during hours spent with family– which is the case of 43% of those surveyed.
  3. We feel less guilt taking vacations and can relax more — like 52% of the surveyed small businesses who feel more comfortable taking a vacation because they can stay plugged-in.

cell phone ignoranceBut is staying plugged in a good thing?

A majority of the businesses in the survey are family-owned (72%) and I know from experience that this romance with the cell phone (and other portable devices) isn’t necessarily good for family relationships.

Dr. Seth Meyers, a licensed clinical psychologist and relationship expert was quoted about the survey results as saying:

“Technology and mobile devices, in particular, can actually be good for family relationships, allowing Mom or Dad to stay plugged in with work while simultaneously attending events – ball games, school events – that were historically only possible for the non-working parent to attend.”

Dr. Seth acknowledges that “small business owner’s attention may be divided in such contexts,” but mobile devices still provide a “greater balance than life before such technology.”

It seems like a mix of good and bad to me:

  • Good because you can actually spend more time with family.
  • Bad because you may never disconnect entirely, and your family still may have to compete for your attention.

How do you deal with mobile devices?

Is the ability to plug back into business at any time and place a good thing? Or do you feel it’s an infringement on your personal life?

And what do you do to keep the balance (i.e., build the business and give family and friends the attention they need and deserve)?  Tell us in the comments how you feel.


Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

8 Reactions
  1. I believe that the good and the bad depends on how much control you feel you can exert over mobile device…do you feel at peace turning it off for an amount of time and saying no to its potential “life” and instead say “yes” to your family, friends and leisure? Until we learn to control our devices, and not let the infinite possibilities of them control us, we will suffer the consequences.

  2. I love that I manage my business from home and I get to stay home with my girls but I believe that no, its not good for family. I have had occasions where my daughters are speaking to me and I am trying to be in the conversation but checking emails at the same time. This is not fair to them so I have been trying to do better with really disconnecting from work which includes leaving my phone in my office.

  3. A mobile device is definitely good for business and can actually be good for the family. The key is balance and knowing when to unplug from business to enjoy family. I personally don’t have my emails set up to automatically push to my device. I manually request email updates, this way I’m not constantly getting notifications, hence being distracted. As we all know, the chances of us Not at least peaking at an email that has just arrived is slim to none.

  4. It’s not always clear that mobile devices are good for business. They are great tools that allow us to be out of the office and yet up to date with everything. But…

    Aside from having the capacity to distract us during family time, they can give the feeling that we never really get away. This can create a sense of being torn between things that are very important to us. This heightened level of stress can interfere with our decision making abiity, our creativity and our mood.

    It becomes essential that we consciously choose time when we switch off or unplug from our mobile devices. When we do this, we stay fresh for ourselves, our families and our businesses.

  5. Martin Lindeskog

    Jamillah, I think that the mobile device is good for business. It is so much more than a regular phone. I have been able to do so much more nowadays. I could check e-mail on the bus, finding businesses and places with map and geo-location apps, update my Twitter feed on the go, etc.

    The most important thing to remember: The mobile device has an on/off button… 😉

  6. You guys are right (@Martin, @Elli, @Jonathan). These devices do have an on/off button, but I’m not sure I can find it (well I can, but there are some who can’t). I can say no at the movies, during family time and at the gym.

    But when it’s on, I do love using my PDA in line at the DMV and the Bank. It certainly maximizes what would usually be dead time and give me more freedom for fun and family…such a work in progress 🙂

  7. Christopher Babayode

    The mix of good and bad is exactly where it’s at. Wireless networks masts and other infrastructure exact a high price and add to the rising electro smog we live in.

    Technology is ingratiating its way into our lives un-checked. Should we abandon it? No, however we do need to tread cautiously and adopt it ecologically.

    Recommendations to the US Senate Select Committee from the 10 year Interphone Study urge caution on the wholesale adoption of technologies until proper risk assessments can be made. Initial findings from the study don’t bode well for health.

    Beyond the capacity to disrupt social interaction there is a larger problem looming on the horizon. Social interruptions can be remedied by etiquette and rules but can the same be said of the health challenges?