Is a digital detox just what you need?
Are you addicted to technology?
You might not realise it, but the likelihood is yes.
According to Ofcom’s 2016 report, 9/10 of UK adults now have internet access at home and 59% of internet users consider themselves hooked on their connected device. We no longer think of digital tech as a ‘nice to have’ but rather a ‘need to have’, and this is the case at work too.
- 47% of us feel ‘lost’ when we can’t access the internet
- 15% of us feel nervous or anxious when we are offline
- On average we spend 25 hours per week online
With more and more of us relying on digital devices to do our day jobs, to communicate globally and access vast amounts of information at the touch of a button, it’s hard to picture how we would function at work without the internet. Many jobs in our industry rely on its very existence – from SEO, to social media, digital comms and UX design. Global communications can reach us at all hours, and it’s harder than ever to switch off outside of our 9-5’s.
‘Always on’ work cultures increase stress levels
Deloitte’s research on BYOD (bring your own device) workplace policies showed ‘a large volume of consumers mentioned regret in taking work home with them, being available during personal hours, and even working while on vacation.’ If people aren’t happy about working out of hours, why do they do it? It often comes down to workplace pressure, the desire to look more dedicated than colleagues or an increase in flexible working in which core working hours becomes less clear.
A 2014 study by Gallup showed the mental impact of these behaviours: ‘Nearly half of workers who frequently email for work outside of normal working hours reported experiencing stress “a lot of the day yesterday,” compared with the 36% experiencing stress who never email for work.’
But is it workplace culture or individual behaviour that’s perpetuating our digital addiction?
Home habits impact work habits
We’re losing sleep, becoming less productive and neglecting our work thanks to too much time spent online. And face-to-face communications are suffering too. Our friends and family are feeling the pinch of digital obsession – 40% of UK adults felt they’d been ‘smart-snubbed’ (ignored by a friend or relative too engrossed in their smartphone or tablet) at least once a week, and the likelihood is that our colleagues experience the same fate. In addition to a breakdown in personal relationships, there are numerous health risks.
Health dangers of digital addiction
From eyestrain, to headaches, neck pain, poor sleep quality and text claw (yup, really) from heavy phone usage… it’s clear that over-use of technology is affecting our physical wellbeing – but mental wellbeing is suffering too. We’re also at risk of becoming more isolated, depressed, anxious and stressed thanks to Internet addiction. So what can employers do to help?
Time to take action – what to do at work
- Be mindful of work life balance: employers should actively encourage a culture of employee wellbeing and respect personal time. Instead of awarding the people that work the latest, award the people that are the most productive. You’ll be surprised at how much shorter working hours boost productivity and keep people refreshed.
- Run digital detox seminars, recognise the benefits of having digital down-time and spread the word about its importance to teams and colleagues. Introducing wellbeing initiatives such as yoga, lunchtime walks or mindfulness sessions can be a great opportunity to switch-off.
- Use lunchtimes wisely, ensuring you take a break from all screens at lunchtimes to eat a well-balanced meal and get some fresh air is crucial.
- Don’t take laptops or phones into meetings – if you’re tapping away on your device instead of giving the speaker your full attention, you’ll be distracted and won’t absorb what’s being said. Instead, take a notepad and a pen and give them your full attention.
Time to take action - what to do at home
It’s no good putting in all of this extra effort at work if we’re glued to our screens as soon as we get home. Practising digital detoxes in our personal lives is equally important.
- Ask what you’re gaining - when you next find yourself scrolling mindlessly on mobile, ask yourself what you’re learning from it and how it’s making you feel. If the answer is ‘not much and not great’ then it may be time to turn off.
- Monitor time spent online – often ‘just five-minutes’ will turn into a long screen stint. Set timers to monitor your time online or use apps such as Moment to record phone usage. You may subsequently gain back quality time in your day and gain a better idea of your habits.
- Turn it off - when meeting friends or family or getting ready for a good night’s kip, turn your phone off to minimise distraction. Better still, leave it in another room.
We pledge to be more mindful about our digital usage and to encourage frequent screen breaks in the office. With technology ever-present in our working lives it’s time to recognise the importance of digital detoxes now more than ever.