Present-but-online: How Mobile Devices May Harm Purposeful Co-presence in Organizations (And What Can Be Done About It)

Peter Holdt Christensen*, Nicolai J. Foss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The introduction of mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets), to the workplace has had many positive effects. While research also indicates that mobile devices may lead to the misallocation and depletion of attention, the negative effects, particularly on interactions in organizations, remain less well understood. We draw on micro-sociology to analyze the use of mobile devices in situations of purposeful co-presence, such as meetings and settings that require a joint effort to solve one or more problems. In these situations, the use of mobile devices is likely to de-energize actors and lead to behaviors that are contrary to the aims of establishing situations of purposeful co-presence. We identify ways in which organizations can avoid the negative consequences of mobile devices (while keeping the positive consequences), ranging from building norms regarding the use of such devices to restructuring work processes (e.g., making activities less interdependent and making less use of purposeful co-presence).
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Management Journal
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)84-94
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 21. July 2020


  • Effervescence
  • Micro-sociology
  • Mobile devices
  • Purposeful co-presence
  • Work motivation

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