Can dual smartphone usage give people a work-life balance?

Dual smartphone usage might be a peculiar way to reduce screen time and opt for mental and physical well-being

Updated - July 17, 2023 01:24 pm IST

Published - July 17, 2023 11:56 am IST

Can dual smartphone usage give people a work-life balance?

Can dual smartphone usage give people a work-life balance? | Photo Credit: Haider Ali Khan

Smartphones’ significance continues to grow in a digitised world where everything is connected. From utility payments, insurance, home loan EMIs, credit card bills, doctor fees to checking in at the airports, mobile phones are the go-to device to get the job done.

This increasing convenience has some downsides. People have started to spend excessive amount of time on their phones to consume online content, play games, interact on social media and browse the internet. And on top of this, their work-related emails and applications are also set up on their personal devices. Such overlap has increased screen time and stress among people, forcing some to think of an alternative way to navigate the digital landscape.

One interesting trend is the gradual move towards two smartphones that divides work from personal needs. People have started buy a second phone to reduce stress and have more balanced social life. On the other hand, some prefer to stay with a single handset for both personal and professional work. We spoke to a range of mobile device users to understand their preferences and motivation.

School teacher

Nidhi Sehgal, 30, is a kindergarten school teacher who handles 25 students. She says that Covid brought along with it changes to how classes are managed. Earlier, she used to get each student on call together but now it has become an individualistic approach. Now, she has a record for each student to make their parents aware about their ward’s daily progress.

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All of this is done over WhatsApp. She is the group admin for the class’s WhatsApp group and shares general updates on the group and separately connects with parents individually about to discuss their child’s performance in class. For these purposes, she has been using a different phone apart from having a personal smartphone. Both are smartphones. The demanding nature of her job doesn’t allow feature phone usage.

Ms. Nidhi added that even during holidays and long summer vacations she has to keep reminding parents about the next unit tests, basic etiquette for children, and a daily motivational quote in the school WhatsApp group. Even after sharing all this information constantly, parents do reach out to her individually on chat to clear their doubts. For her, this is a never-ending process.

Gig worker

Ashok, 34, works as a delivery partner for a large e-commerce platform. He delivers multiple items throughout the day in his area. He uses two phones: one for his work and other for personal matters. His job mandates a constant touch with delivery partners and buyers.

“One phone can’t handle such workload,” he said. “At times, I need to speak to my family but my other phone is already engaged, so I always keep two phones with me to be sure and connected.”

He added that this is an all-risk job that requires regular and multiple points of coverage in a day. He has to deliver packages during all weather conditions. “The hot weather affects our smartphone’s performance. Occasionally, it goes blank during the day due to heat.

“I have to rely on a feature phone which is more robust and suits our job challenges,” he said.

While interacting with other delivery agents, we found most of them use two smartphones; one for delivery purposes, and the other to stay connected with family and friends. In a nine to ten hour shift, most of their time goes in logistics, interacting with merchants, retailers and buyers. At times, they do miss important calls if they don’t carry their second phone. We noticed that the second handset in most cases like Ashok’s is a feature phone. This segment of users also pointed out that monthly recharges were getting costlier and that feature phones don’t require additional data packs. That way, their purpose of being connected and their work goes as planned.

Corporate employee

Bhaskar Baruah, 43, works at a multi-national organisation. His office is in Gurugram. He drives to work from Delhi’s Northend covering a distance of over 100 kilometres daily. Mr. Baruah owns two smartphones. He constantly checks his official emails, and also monitors an official WhatsApp group chat.

“I’m always on phone. One phone can’t do it, so I got two. This constant monitoring increases my screen time and gives me sleepless nights,” he said.

He is looking to find ways to lower his screen time but has not been very successful yet. For Mr. Baruah, dual smartphone usage is becoming a norm.

Similar to Mr. Baruah’s case, several corporate employees buy a phone to get office-related work done. A phone which is being monitored remotely does not allow specific app to run and therefore the workforce opt for the secondary phone. Also, this set of users has more disposable income, which is why they go for a smartphone.

Social activist

Harvinder Singh, 52, is a social activist, working in the field of education. He explains his routine of using a single mobile phone and that too, with restricted usage. He works towards educating under-privileged children, and spends a bulk of his time outdoors. When he reaches home, he checks his phone for calls, messages, and emails, and then connects with family. Mr. Singh’s time spent on his mobile phone is intermittent.

“I do not use phone while meeting with people, friends or families. Furthermore, I restrict my phone’s usage after dinner and rather engage in reading books that ease my nerves for the day,” he said.

He carries a feature phone whenever he moves out for relaxation, where only his close friends and family member can establish contact with him. He even owns a smartphone but uses it only during his free time.

People like Mr. Singh show resistance to mobile devices but are fine with using a feature phone. This category of people use a phone just to stay connected in case of an emergency. They admit the positive impact of smartphones as a catalyst for change but question its excessive use. The prefer limiting usage for their own well-being. They follow a usage routine. For example, they do not use a phone while eating, watching TV or interacting with family members. Similarly, they follow no-phone, no-mail, no-message during week offs. When they step out for vacation, they use a feature phone only.

College student

Sahil, 19, is a student at Delhi University. He owns a mid-range smartphone and says usage remains quite low. Most of his peer-to-peer conversation happens offline or in-person. Sahil says that his sole mobile phone serves his purpose. He wants to have a new phone and for that he is saving out of his pocket money. His current phone will go for the exchange whenever he decides for a new one.

From our interaction with other college-going youth, we found the critical driver of the mobile market in India is the segment that is in High School and College. And most of them manage with a single phone. They like to interact more in-person than clinging to a phone.

In conclusion

Multiple research have shown that smartphone addiction affects youth largely and drives the young mind in the direction of a fear of missing out. This makes them anxious, lonely, irritable and stressed. A disturbed sleeping pattern is common among the people with excessive screen time.

Overall, dual smartphone usage might be a peculiar way to reduce screen time and opt for mental and physical well-being. There are multiple ways to do it and people can find their own path. People should watch out for signals and plan a healthy digital routine that involves more of a physical connect with acquaintances and family.

Also Read | Smartphone addiction hurts relationship of married couples 

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