Human Capital Management Leadership

Home screen to work stream: How phubbing affects workplace creativity2 min read

May 7, 2024 2 min read


Home screen to work stream: How phubbing affects workplace creativity2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutesReading Time: 2 minutes

In March 2024, scholars published a research paper investigating how personal interactions at home, specifically through phubbing (ignoring one’s partner in favor of mobile phone use), affect creativity at work through the dynamics of work-family support and job crafting.

This research was conducted by Siqi Wang (Aston Business School), Yasin Rofcanin (University of Bath, School of Management), Mireia Las Heras, and Zeynep Yalabik (IESE Business School). Scholars analyzed daily diary data from 65 dual-earner couples in the United States, all employed full-time for 15 working days. The study utilized surveys to gather information on work-family spousal support, phubbing behavior (ignoring one’s partner due to smartphone use), and job crafting activities (both relational and cognitive). Here, creativity at work is defined as the ability of employees to generate new and valuable solutions, approaches, and concepts that can benefit their roles and the organization at large.

Key Findings

  1. Work-Family Support and Creativity: The study underscores the importance of spousal support at home in enhancing an employee’s creativity at work. Supportive interactions between spouses help employees engage in job crafting—modifying their work roles and tasks—which fosters greater creativity.
  2. Negative Impact of Phubbing: Phubbing at home, which refers to ignoring one’s partner in favor of using the phone, significantly disrupts this positive flow of support and its benefits. When one partner frequently phubs, it weakens the relational dynamics and reduces the ability to receive and benefit from spousal support, ultimately hampering creativity at work.
  3. Gender Differences in Dynamics: The study also highlights potential gender differences: it finds that female partners receiving spousal support are more likely to engage in relational and cognitive job crafting than their male counterparts. In contrast, for male partners, receiving spousal support does not significantly relate to increases in job crafting activities.

Business Implications

This study estimates the importance of fostering family support structures and implementing digital wellness initiatives for business leaders and HR professionals to combat technology’s encroachment on personal time. Reducing phubbing can enhance spousal support and contribute to a more creative and productive workforce.


Organizations that actively develop policies to help employees balance their professional and personal lives stand to benefit. By adopting family-friendly practices and promoting digital wellness, companies can mitigate the adverse effects of phubbing, thereby enhancing both employee well-being and creative performance. This research vividly illustrates how domestic dynamics directly influence professional creativity and productivity, offering valuable insights for enhancing employee support mechanisms in the modern workplace.

Mireia Las Heras is a Professor in the Managing People in Organizations Department at IESE Business School. Since 2019, she has served as the Director of the International Center for Work and Family. She is an industrial engineer by training, holds an MBA from IESE Business School, and has a doctorate in business administration from Boston University. She has widely published and researched Work-Family issues around the World. Mireia is the chair of the International Work Family Conference in Barcelona every two years, which brings together researchers worldwide. In 2019, it celebrated its 8th edition.