Tish Monahan says people expect messages and calls to be returned immediately.

Tish Monahan says people expect messages and calls to be returned immediately.

Busy business owner Tish Monahan checks her phone six times an hour. That's once every 10 minutes and more frequently on hectic days.

“It's what my life has to be now,” she says.

“People expect their messages and comments to be reacted to straight away. “That's the sad reality of the world we live in.”

Nathan Schokker: can check his phone 20 to 30 times an hour.

Nathan Schokker: can check his phone 20 to 30 times an hour.

Monahan is the owner and founder of She Science, a sports-bra store in Melbourne, which opened just six months ago.

The pressure of running a fledgling business means Monahan works up to 75 hours a week and is never far from her phone.

She manages various social media accounts, the store's email and of course, incoming phone calls. Monahan prides herself on her quick responses to customers and has been praised for her prompt customer service.

But she says this feedback just fuels the fire.

“Phone separation anxiety is the term I've coined for it,” she says.

“Unfortunately it's caused some problems in my personal life and I've been accused of not being present.”

Monahan is not alone. Today's business owners handle customers who are accustomed to instant gratification and have high expectations of access through multiple social media outlets. It's no wonder they are hyper-alert when it comes to checking their smartphones.

Nathan Schokker founder of facilities management provider Talio admits checking his phone between 20 and 30 times an hour if he's waiting on an important email or phone call.

“That's at its worst and I've constantly got the iPhone and iPad within arm's reach to make sure I'm on top of my emails,” he says.

Being on top of his business affairs keeps his customer service a step ahead of the rest, but Schokker says it can be a procrastination tool and even a source of stress.

“Sometimes it can feel like an addiction or anxiety,” he says.

“If I've been away from my emails or phone for a while, the first thing I wanted to do was check my emails because I can feel the anxiety coming.

“That feeling of anxiety can affect my judgment and my mood.”

Beyondblue board member Dr Michael Baigent says constant phone checking is akin to having a pokie addiction.

“Basically what's happening is distress is arising from the view that something's going on and the person needs to know about it, so they check their phone to bring down that unpleasant feeling, but it's just reinforcing the behaviour,” he says.

“It's a very powerful reinforcement schedule, a bit like using a poker machine where you put in coins and you don't know if things are going to go in your favour.”

Dr Baigent, an associate professor from the faculty of health sciences at Flinders University, says people who continually check their phones are likely to develop serious anxiety symptoms the shakes, increased heart rate and sweating.

Many phone obsessives may not even be aware of these problematic signs.

“A lot of people don't recognise these symptoms,” Dr Baigent says.

“By frequently checking things, they are not able to focus on the task at hand and are constantly pursuing tangents.

“They probably hate the electronic media they're hooked into, but feel stuck.”

To break the habit, Dr Baigent advises keeping a record of how many times you check your phone per day. Set yourself a realistic goal and gradually try to reach it.

DesignCrowd founder Alec Lynch checks his phone about 50 times a day and though he is aware it creeps into his personal life, has accepted the intrusion.

“The lines between life and business are blurred and I've accepted that,” Lynch says.

“When you pour so much energy and passion into your own business, it's hard not to.”

Lynch says his compulsive phone checking – mostly for sales results and emails – has irritated those in his personal life. But he says his business is better off for it.

“I've been on dates where the other person has raised eyebrows or said something, but it hasn't been a deal breaker thankfully,” Lynch says.

“I want the business to be the best it can be and I want to constantly innovate and to do that, you have to react quickly.”