Today, the immense popularity and pervasiveness of smartphones is undeniable. According to Ericsson’s latest annual Mobility Report, there are more than 3.8 Billion smartphones in use around the world today – and that figure is expected to top 6.8 billion by 2020!

We’re living in an age where being constantly connected is the norm, so is it any wonder that “smombies” (smartphone zombies) – people who walk along with their eyes glued to their smartphones – are such a common sight on our streets?

The trend of talking and texting while walking has even been found to alter our gait, seeing us employ a “cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy,” according to research published recently in the journal PLOS ONE by scientists at Anglia Ruskin University.

Then there’s the reality that a single modern smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969 – the year they put a man on the moon.

It’s all pretty mind-blowing when you analyze it, and it got me thinking about the impact smartphones have had on our working lives and, in particular, the way they are fueling and driving collaboration within enterprises.

The fact that several members of a distributed team can work simultaneously on a document – even while one of them is using a smartphone – and always be presented with the most up to date version, highlights the enormous impact smartphones are having on collaboration across enterprises.

Employees, leaders and partners alike are inevitably connected with anyone, anywhere, any time and have all the information and tools they need to collaborate with other teams and individuals in the palm of their hand.

It’s undeniable that smartphones have taken us into new realms of collaboration and empowerment. However, the always connected world we now live in also has the potential to hinder workplace productivity.

The countless number of instant messaging applications being utilized for both work-related and personal conversations – coupled with the ability to read and send emails while on-the-go – provides more distractions than ever before for enterprise employees.

We can go online from anywhere at any time and search for anything that pops into our heads at the touch of a button (or swipe of a screen). Those constant new email and chat notifications have us reaching for our phones to satisfy our inherent sense of curiosity. Who could it be? Is it important? We can’t help ourselves, and that’s something which can be a productivity killer.

Next thing you know you’re on LinkedIn or Facebook; just “checking” to see whether there’s been any important updates since the last time you looked. A couple of minutes turn into 15 and the likelihood of getting your current task list reduced diminishes rapidly.

I’m not saying we should hide our smartphones away and not look at them throughout the day, but I do think people need to be disciplined and conscious of the potential of their smartphones to consume more of their time than they expect.

What do you think?

Are our smartphones now indispensable because of the almost limitless boost they provide for collaboration or are they potential productivity killers that should come with a “distraction alert” warning label?