Picture this: You’re at a restaurant and at the table next to you, two people sit in silence. One person is moving their food around the plate while the other’s face is illuminated by their phone’s blue LED light (a glow that many of us have a love-hate relationship with). Sound familiar? It’s easy to jump to conclusions here—I’m definitely guilty of muttering judgmental things to my partner when I see this scene. But the phone’s pull in our lives—whether it’s the virtual office or the personal emergency button—often feels mandatory. Being “on-call” at all times is something a lot of people believe will help them get ahead. (The science says otherwise, of course.) Obviously, neglecting your partner to answer emails can strain your relationship, but a new study in the Journal of Occupational Health suggests that using your phone for work purposes at home may negatively impact your spouse’s satisfaction and performance at work.

The study looked at 344 married couples who work full-time jobs and use mobile devices for work purposes at home. Participants were asked a variety of questions, from how often they find themselves using their phone for work at home, to questions regarding their overall job satisfaction. The study identified an association between high phone usage in the home and decreased job satisfaction and performance.

“There is plenty of research on technology and how it affects employees,” study author Wayne Crawford, assistant professor of management in UTA’s College of Business said.”We wanted to see if this technology use carried over to affect the spouse negatively at work.”

As Crawford noteded, the research “provides evidence that organizations ultimately suffer from this practice,” and connects to the larger conversation in the zeitgeist about our relationship with technology.

As Lila MacLellan at Quartz explains, “The conflict itself might best be explained by a theory of psychology that says when people feel like their resources, including time and energy, are stretched, they conserve what resources they do have. So, frantically texting with a colleague may make you less likely to help your partner care for a child, for example. You may not be aware when you’re conserving resources, but someone is nevertheless left to pick up the slack.”

While the study specifically looked at married couples, the association is important for everyone to consider if they’re looking to build healthier relationships with their jobs/employees, their partners and their phones.

Read more about the study here.


  • Alexandra Hayes

    Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive

    Alexandra Hayes is a Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive. Prior to joining Thrive, she was a middle school reading teacher in Canarsie, Brooklyn.