How Do Smartphones Affect Our Work and Health?

Advances in technology are continually changing the way people work. Laptops, tablets and smartphones allow employees to work from anywhere, anytime. Smartphones in particular have become a constant companion for many employees (Feuchtl, Hartner-Tiefenthaler, Köszegi, 2016).

The share of smartphone owners in Austria increased from 86% in 2015 to 94% in 2017 (Mobile Marketing Association 2017).

Smartphones not only offer the ability to make phone calls or see the latest news on Facebook, but are increasingly being used to access business mails. On the one hand, this offers advantages, such as more autonomy and more space for individual maneuver. On the other hand, this increasingly blurs the line between work and private life, which can lead to conflicts between these two areas (Diaz, Chiaburu, Zimmermann & Boswell, 2012, Hartner-Tiefenthaler, Feuchtl & Köszegi, 2016).

Excessive stress and burnout as a consequence

In the worst case, the use of smartphones in work may lead to extra hours, stress and burnout. Therefore, conscious planning of when and where to use the smartphone are essential for recovery and to prevent health problems. Interestingly female smartphone users seem to be affected most (Derks, Ten Brummelhuis, Zecic & Bakker, 2014).

Effects on health and mental detachment from work

However, the specific psychological impact of smartphone-use on health is still unclear. In order to create clarity, it is important to examine these aspects over a longer period of time by using different methods. Currently, our studies take these aspects into account and focus on the mental detachment from work and the effect it has on sleep quality.

YLVI - an app that shows the individual user-behavior

In cooperation with the Research Group Industrial Software (INSO), opens an external URL in a new window of the Faculty of Computer Science of the TU Wien and the Chamber of Labor Lower Austria, opens an external URL in a new window, the usage behavior of the mobile phone and its connection with work, sleep and health was examined on the basis of a sample of 250 participants.

In the context of this study, also known as the "YLVI Study", an app was developed which measured the actual use of the participants' mobile phone over a period of three weeks. This allowed us a glimpse into the natural behaviour of users. Additionaly during this three weeks participants were regularly asked to answer a short questionnaire about their well-being concerning work, sleep and health. After three weeks, feedback was provided on how often and for how long which applications were used and linked to the data received via the questionnaires. All data recorded in the course of the “YLVI Study” was anonymised and saved via a secure server of TU Wien.

The following graph provides an overview of the study procedure:

The procedure of YLVY, shown as an arrow pointing to the right.

Procedure of the YLVI app study. Day 1: App-installation and initial questionnaire. Day 2 to 5: 14 short questionnaires. Day 16: Final questionnaire. Day 21: End of study and statistical output through app.

The data collection for this study is closed.

Congratulations to the winners of the raffle:

  • Florian Oberleitner-Leeb
  • Elisabeth Perner
  • Dominik Seitz


Preliminary results show that high smartphone usage is generally associated with a sense of time pressure and stress, as well as less work motivation and chronic neck pain. Weakening the regeneration, health and well-being of workers has a negative impact on job satisfaction and performance. This can result in negative consequences for the individuals and their social environment.

The most important results are summarized in this short video, opens an external URL in a new window (German only).

In cooperation with:

Further Reading

Follow-up Project

Based on our results we initiated a follow-up project called Work-Life-Balance 4.0, in which we develop an app too in order to manage the boundaries between work and life.

For more information on the new study, please visit Work-Life-Balance 4.0.