You may have noticed that people have become inseparable from their phones. Situations that used to be technology free – watching a film on the sofa, a romantic dinner or even just going to sleep – are no longer sacred, and it’s almost guaranteed that any of these scenarios will now feature a device within a few inches. Whether it’s compulsively browsing social media or a fixation with checking work emails every hour, our lives revolve around moving from one screen to another, even during evenings, weekends and holidays.
This lack of boundaries – particularly when it comes to work – is simply not healthy. Extending the day past working hours and into what is supposed to be our leisure time can actually be counterproductive. Although some cultures are beginning to recognise and accept this (with France introducing a law that protects workers’ “right to disconnect” last year), the problem is still widespread at the moment.
If you find yourself guilty of scrolling through work-related emails and projects at home, or even on your commute, here are five reasons why a digital detox is exactly what you need.
1. It reduces stress levels
You might think that checking in with emails after a stressful day at work will actually help you stay on top of things and make the following day easier. A study was actually conducted that demonstrates this is rarely the case, however, revealing higher levels of stress and lower personal productivity in people that find it hard to step back from their work commitments.
2. You’re overworking yourself
What are your contracted hours, 9-5? Close enough? Well, when was the last time you actually worked them? If you’re a salaried worker, every time you check your emails on the train, or work through your lunch break instead of going for a walk, or take phone calls after work, you’re actually just working for free. While you might justify the odd late night to get an important report done, when was the last time it was actually a one-off?
It’s estimated that the average working week in Britain is actually 43.6 hours, compared to 35 hours across the channel in France. Are we actually getting any more work done? Given the rising popularity of the 4-day week, it seems not.
3. Holiday time will prevent burnout
Can you remember the last time you were actually able to switch off and recharge while you were on holiday? Thought not. Apparently, 60% of people feel the same way, reporting that their usual holiday doesn’t reduce their stress. However, this is in line with an increasing number of employees admitting that even holidays aren’t safe from compulsive email checking and a sense of obligation to reply to new messages from the office.
Annual leave is essential for mental recovery from a stressful job. Even if the idea of leaving your workload for a few days seems daunting, focus on leaving a good handover so you can take a proper break and come back with fresh energy.
4. It closes you off from your team
Surely staying connected to the office brings you closer to your colleagues? Well, no. Typing out an email is impersonal and quite removed, particularly in comparison to making a quick phone call or, even better, take five minutes to visit someone in person. Face to face contact with the people you work with not only helps you build better relationships but improves communication and morale – no more second-guessing the tone of an abrupt email!
From an HR perspective, a zero-tech team-building day is a good way to boost employee satisfaction and improve workplace performance. Instead of a routine summer party (which people are rarely excited about anyway), why not organise a hands-on team-building day that encourages human interaction without any screens in the way.
5. Even your manager doesn’t want you to do it
You might be under the impression that your manager condones any extra-curricular work that helps you get your job done. If you actually talk to your office leadership, you may find this isn’t actually the case. A large number of managers actually have no idea about how much time their employees spend working when they’re supposed to be relaxing and don’t support the decision at all.
A good work-life balance is essential for a productive workforce. If you’re part of a management or HR team and know yourself to be guilty of working extra hours, emailing staff beyond the working day or replying to non-urgent emails at the weekend or while you should be on annual leave, then stop. It’s time to lead by example and, by going on your own digital detox outside of working hours, your employees will feel more comfortable doing the same.
Mike James is a featured author and business writer, specialising in HR, Marketing and Cybersecurity. Published on numerous online authorities and print magazines, Mike is currently focusing on HR and management.