Published on 08/04/2024
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Woman upset with man, who is on his phone
  • Study sheds light on the negative effects of ‘phubbing’, the idea of snubbing someone in favour of your phone
  • It found digital distraction undermines partner support that fosters creativity at work
  • Researchers hope the findings will contribute to employer thinking on boundaries around using technology for working out of hours.

Focusing attention on your mobile phone instead of your partner doesn’t just strain your relationship - it also affects women’s creativity in the workplace, according to researchers from Aston University, University of Bath and IESE Business School. 

Their study sheds light on the negative effects of ‘phubbing’, the idea of snubbing someone in favour of your phone, which is known for its detrimental impact on relationships and mental wellbeing. Now the study of working couples in the US points to repercussions in the workplace as well, but only for the female partner. 

Analysis of diary entries spanning 15 working days, from 65 full-time, dual-income heterosexual couples with children in the United States of America, reveals that phone use is disrupting social interaction and the support couples provide each other in balancing work and family responsibilities. 

Previous research from a similar study setup shows that supportive interactions with co-workers extend to the home environment, benefiting partners in loving relationships and contributing to enhanced creativity in the workplace.

However, the effect only works for women. Researchers say women seem more adept at translating this support into workplace creativity, possibly because expectations on women to juggle home and work push them to pursue support networks and seek out family-friendly work policies. 

The researchers say that the support spiral enables women to be more resourceful at work – to engage in proactive ‘job-crafting’ that enhances job satisfaction, such as seeking out new challenges, building stronger relationships with colleagues and choosing a positive perspective on their role, which all contribute to enhanced creativity at work.

The researchers hope that the findings will contribute to employer thinking on boundaries around using technology for working out of hours, and that it will underline the importance of policies that support work-family balance, such as flexible working schedules.

Dr Siqi Wang, a lecturer in organisational behaviour and human resource management at Aston Business School, said: 

“In fostering a supportive work-family environment, close collaboration between HR managers and employees’ first-line supervisors is essential. 

“Employers can benefit from work-family supervisor training programs emphasizing communication and limiting technology use, particularly for work purposes.

“As organisations navigate this new landscape, it's crucial to consider the impact of home dynamics on employee productivity and well-being.” 

Professor Yasin Rofcanin, from the University of Bath’s Future of Work research centre, said:

“Phone usage is eroding the connection between couples and hindering their capacity to discuss and address stresses and concerns that are playing on their mind. 

“Supportive interactions at home have a positive crossover effect on partners, enhancing their creativity in the workplace. However, this spiral of support is lost when individuals are absorbed in phone scrolling, missing out on these valuable moments of connection.”

“These findings around phubbing hold particular relevance in the post-pandemic era, where hybrid working arrangements have become increasingly prevalent.”

The more you connect, the less you connect: An examination of the role of phubbing at home and job crafting in the crossover and spillover effects of work-family spousal support on employee creativity is published in the Journal of Occupational and Oranizational Psychology.

Notes to Editors

About Aston University

For over a century, Aston University’s enduring purpose has been to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by enabling our students to succeed in work and life, and by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.

Aston University’s history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a remarkable city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.

Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a proud and distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming The Guardian University of the Year in 2020.

Building on our outstanding past, we are now defining our place and role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and beyond) within a rapidly changing world.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Sam Cook, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44) 7446 910063 or email:

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