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Secondary mobile phones – a danger to our environment and well-being?

(Image credit: Image Credit Niekverlaan / Pixabay)

The mobile phone, where would we be without it? No one really wants to contemplate that question because we have become reliant on the ease of communication, access to data and entertainment mobiles deliver so easily.

Some of us are content with using just one mobile and we combine work and personal connectivity on a single device. This can be challenging, however, as it becomes difficult to separate one from the other and users are bombarded with demands from clients, managers or colleagues outside of working hours or even when on holiday. 

Always being connected and available for work demands is having a serious impact on our well-being. We risk burnout.   

A recent survey found that 60% of British workers don’t have a good work-life balance, which is hardly surprising when we can be contacted anywhere, at any time, even when lying on the beach. 

One solution is to have a separate phone for work related calls and emails. Businesses positively encourage this because it gives them a clear understanding of billing and expenses and they can maintain control of customer communication and data. For employees, there is a clear benefit – they can leave the work phone behind when they are not actually working.   

The two-phone conundrum 

The downside though is considerable. In the UK alone 14 million people use a second phone. Given that 15 million mobile phones are also upgraded in the UK each year, that’s more than a shed load of phones cluttering up desk drawers, cupboards and handbags that are not being used on a regular, day-to-day basis.   

The worrying part is just what those mobiles are doing to the environment. Many components of mobile phones are toxic – arsenic, lithium, cadmium, lead and zinc – to name a few, and there are question marks about how these poisons are being leaked into landfill sites from abandoned phones, affecting groundwater and contaminating the earth.   

As if this wasn’t concerning enough, every time a new mobile phone is manufactured it uses energy and materials which release greenhouse gases. A little-known fact is that one mobile will use enough carbon in its lifetime to power a Boeing 737 jet for an hour. It also requires 13 tons of water and 18 square meters of land to make a single smartphone.   

What company can afford to offend public sensitivity to environmental and climate change issues, not to mention risk considerable fines and scrutiny from regulatory bodies?   Now is really the time to think again about the impact of work phones and find a viable solution that is more environmentally friendly. 

One phone, two numbers, easy management 

The solution to the two-phones challenge lies in smart communications technology.   

Apps are now available that allow users to manage a work number and a personal number on just one phone. What is particularly clever about these is that they have been designed to reflect human behaviour.    

Personalised voice messages, for example, can be set to provide clear details about when the user is available, and when the caller can expect to receive an answer to their query, which sets clear expectations. Also, if a user is accustomed to leaving a meeting and rushing to listen to his or her voicemail messages, they can relax and arrange for those messages to be automatically transcribed into texts. This allows them to assess the urgency of the request and decide whether to respond quickly or keep it until later. It also saves them time.

Another bonus is that a second number can be used on a mobile phone without the need for an additional SIM card. This means that calls to that number can easily be identified as professional not personal, and the number used for work can be switched off without disconnecting from personal calls or messages, allowing the user to actually enjoy their downtime.   

If the argument for having a second work phone is simple billing and handling expenses, this can now be achieved by submitting an iTunes receipt as an expense. Some apps are able to offer a portal that centralises billing and management of all numbers. This is worth looking out for because it provides the benefits of a work phone without having to lug around a second device and with much greater convenience.     

On a lighter note, it’s worth pointing out that in many circles two phones are no longer de rigeur, in fact, they have become rather socially embarrassing, not to mention cumbersome to carry around. In addition, mobile phones supplied by companies are often not the same model that the user would select for themselves, which means that they have to constantly switch between user interfaces and operating systems, and remember two sets of passwords, wasting precious time.   

Achieving mobile balance 

Even with innovative apps helping the user to separate work and personal connectivity, the balance between being a good professional communicator and valuing precious relaxation time has to be down to the individual. Fear of missing out (FOMO) doesn’t just relate to social activities, it can also be the reason why users are constantly monitoring both their professional and their private calls and messages.   

Changing unhealthy habits, such as checking and responding to emails at 6am or at midnight, which are definitely not office hours, is essential. One tactic that works well is to reinforce availability. What this means is that professionals include their working hours as part of their email signature – this sends a clear, concise message that leaves no room for ambiguity, and expectations are managed and treated professionally. It also solves the problem of frustrated colleagues, who keep emailing or leaving messages that are not answered.   

So, if the second phone is now on its way out for environmental, social and usage reasons, there is no doubt that the apps that can replace it offer not just a way to protect our environment and manage our communications more efficiently, but also to find a healthier work-life balance too. 

Allyson Munarriz, Head of Marketing, Another Number 

Image Credit Niekverlaan / Pixabay