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Encourage your Employees to take a Digital Detox

Irma Hunkeler

The digital world is a difficult one to escape these days, which means that a tech overload is a very real risk. One of the primary concerns is that the lines between people’s working lives and private lives are becoming blurred, and this is leading to burnout. Contributor Irma Hunkeler – Re:signal.

While some employers might assume that letting staff access work emails and other tech outside the office would boost productivity, it can actually distract people from their work. Having minds that are always busy means employees are not focused, not engaged and lacking energy. That’s why many employers are now encouraging staff to limit their use of digital devices. But what methods can you use to introduce a digital detox to your employees…

Introduce a tech-free window
Try introducing an hour-long window on a weekly or daily basis where everyone turns off non-essential technology such as email and instant messaging. This will allow them to focus fully on work they can get on with without having to communicate digitally with others. As well as helping to improve the productivity of employees by removing constant digital distractions, it can also stimulate face-to-face conversations between your team.

Ban personal mobile phone use at work
Research shows that the average person checks their phone 200 times a day, which is once every six minutes. Needless to say, that has a huge impact on workplace productivity, with one-in-five employers estimating that their team are productive for fewer than five hours a day, with mobile phones cited as being the biggest single source of distraction. Banning personal mobile phone use at work is a step 26 percent of employers have taken, and given those lost hours of productivity, it’s easy to see why.

Remove out-of-hours access to email
In 2012, the German carmaker Volkswagen took what at the time seemed like the dramatic step of banning employee access to email outside of work hours. It chose to take this action after receiving complaints from its employees that work was infringing on their personal lives. Since then, lots of companies have followed Volkswagen’s lead and imposed email bans as a way of improving their employees’ work-life balance and boosting their productivity.

The French Government has gone one step further by enshrining the email ban in law. Now all French companies with more than 50 employees are required to give workers the ‘right to disconnect’ from their technology when they leave the office at night.

Hold no-tech meetings
Rather than heading into meetings with laptops and tablets in hand, why not take the step of making some meetings technology-free? Although it’s not always possible, it can be particularly beneficial when having brainstorming meetings, with innovative and creative ideas more likely to flow without the distraction of bright screens or regular interruptions. Taking the opportunity to have a break from the office and holding walking meetings or simply moving the meeting outdoors can increase the time spent talking face-to-face and boost verbal communication.

Encourage staff to take regular breaks
Researchers have found that the most productive employees work for 52 minutes in a concentrated, constructive burst, before taking a break for 17 minutes. This pattern of working is all the more productive if the 17-minute breaks are spent away from digital devices. Making a coffee, talking to co-workers or taking a short walk all allow employees to rest their eyes and refresh their minds and bodies ready for their next 52-minute burst of work.

Organise workplace activities
The lunch break is one time of the day workers often spend glued to social media feeds or online news outlets. But after spending most of the morning in front of tech, it makes sense to give employees a break. Organising lunchtime activities such as a running club, yoga or even a group lunch can help to boost wellbeing and productivity.

Realise the benefits of a digital detox
There’s plenty of evidence out there to show that business owners who encourage employees to take a digital detox are seeing the benefits. Limiting the digital distractions in the office and even banning email access after office hours will allow workers to sleep better and de-stress, which will boost their productivity.


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