michael douglas phone

Lunch is for Wimps, So Keep Staring at Your Phone

Kathy Rapp Corporate America, Culture, Kathy Rapp

Remember when owning a mobile phone was a symbol of success? You know, the Motorola monster Michael Douglas, aka Gordon Gekko, aka “Awww, lunch is for wimps“, wielded around so powerfully in 1987’s “Wall Street“?  Everyone wanted one, but only a few were privileged enough at the time to own one.

Fast forward and A) recognize the speed of technological change is mind-blowing and B) do you kinda now wish you didn’t have a mobile phone next to you 24/7?

Flipping through an HBR article on the ever elusive “balance” topic, a 2016 survey from Deloitte got my attention.  It found “that Americans collectively check their phones 8 billion times per day.  The average for individual Americans was 46 checks per day, including during leisure time – watching TV, spending time with friends, eating dinner”.


I know some of you are saying, “Wow, that’s lower than I thought”, and I’m shaking my head at you.

This is certainly an issue that can have incredible impact on our workforce – today and tomorrow.  Just a few trends to consider:

  • Gen Z will be even more mobile, digital and educated
  • Resumes will disappear – replaced by digital footprints and social media
  • CEOs’ priorities will include innovation AND people
  • Recruiters will need to engage candidates in a new way (hint: digital)
  • There will be fewer workplace “policies” (woo hoo!!!)

Clearly, mobile devices HAVE to be part of the workplace.  It’s how a lot of work will get done; it’s how people will collaborate; it’s how we will recruit/develop/teach.  But how will it impact your culture?

I’m sure many of you have had the same sad observation I have.  You know, the family out to dinner. What a treat, right?  Everyone getting to eat at the same time in a special place.  Then the mobile devices come out.  And invariably, all you see is the tops of heads until dinner arrives; then hopefully the devices go away, but not always.

The family scenario is terribly disturbing to me.  And it’s also happening in our workplaces.  In meetings.  In hallways.  On conference calls.  On walks to lunch.  In coffee shops.  On planes, trains and buses.

All you see are tops of heads.

So how do we, as HR pros, stay in front of the clearly digital future of work trends, and at the same time protect a culture of interpersonal conversation and healthy connection?

Perhaps they aren’t mutually exclusive, but even so, we have to be intentional about creating the right culture for our organizations.  An element of that means modeling the behavior ourselves, setting expectations with our employees/customers/peers/vendors around when we will not respond to emails/texts/calls – and ultimately define and live a culture that doesn’t require checking a phone 46 times a day.

Maybe optical technology fittings becomes part of on-boarding so at least we can see everyone’s faces!?!

Love to hear your thoughts.  Hit me in the comments.