Smartphones and being contactable 24/7 means that the line between our work/life balance has become blurred. But are digital detoxes just a fad, or will they save your mental health?
The ‘always-on’ culture has been generating a lot of worry from researchers over the past decade. Starting when we’re teenagers, we grow up with our smartphone in our hands and checking it becomes as unconscious a response as taking a breath. A normal phone user touches their phone 2,167 times a day, while the top 10% of phone users click, tap or swipe on their phone 5,427 times a day, according to researcher Dscout.
The consequences of checking our phones too much are everything from repetitive strain injury (RSI), poor posture and eyesight problems to insomnia, depression and even the possibility of death. One in four traffic accidents are caused by people using their phones while driving, but that’s just one of the many ways in which your phone could be the death of you.
So what’s the answer? Do businesses just encourage employees to switch off and hope they stick to it? Or do we offer benefits so they detox on their holidays and encourage time away from their desks like hiking holidays or last-minute cruises to establish good habits? Digital detox holidays are becoming ever more popular, but should we be leaping on board this trend? We explore if and why taking time away from the internet could increase your work performance.
Workplace Stress Causes More Sick Days
According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, employee stress in the UK accounts for 50-60% of lost working days. Those are just the days we actually take off work, too. We’re all familiar with sleepless nights lost to stressed thoughts running through our brains, being tired and not fully functional at work the next day, or drinking so much coffee to focus that we have a caffeine crash and a migraine mid-afternoon.
Although we’re happier than we’ve ever been with our jobs, we’re also more stressed than ever, largely thanks to work. Ironically, it’s often pushing to meet deadlines which causes us to become stressed and take time off work, creating a cycle of stress that’s impossible to get out of.
Millennials Want Flexible Working — But This Makes Switching Off Hard
Flexible working is becoming ever more popular, as much through necessity as choice on the part of employers. The rise of millennials in the workforce is requiring different considerations on the part of the employer. For instance, 81% of millennials want to have flexible hours, but flexible hours contradict the requirements of 88% of millennials – work life integration. Remote working often means employers use objective based salaries, rather than time based – meaning that remote workers find their schedule is harder to regulate and keep balanced. A team on flexible working hours also find it harder to work as just that: a team.
With a team who are all marching to the beat of their own drum, getting anything to synchronise and move fast can be difficult, to say the least.
Experience Incentives Can Be Used to Your Advantage
Other work requirements from Millennials, like experience-based incentives rather than monetary incentives, make the work-life balance easier to keep. These days, employees want to have incentives as part of their contract, like treadmill desks, gym memberships and Spotify premium accounts.
Running digital detox retreats as part of your regular employee benefits scheme can keep your employees calm and free of stress, as well as helping team bonding. Offering performance-based incentives that inadvertently encourage digital detoxing, like a luxury cruise with NCL or SIlversea away from WiFi, or a Yoga retreat, will also help your employees stay engaged during the working day and switch off when they need to.
But Do Digital Detoxes Really Work?
Once you have your employees on a digital detox, what happens next? If you’ve sailed off on a last-minute cruise from the UK and you’re now out of signal, will you be breaking an addiction or a cold sweat? Those who’ve tried to digitally detox at home report failure. Of those who go through an official retreat, two out of three succeed. Technology is often underestimated as being a less serious addiction, but our addiction to our phones is affecting our work life and isn’t to be taken lightly.
There are many studies that focus on school and college students about phones breaking concentration and reducing academic performance, but for some reason, attention isn’t being paid to this issue in the workplace. There’s little doubt, though, that after a week away from your phone and inbox, your stress levels significantly decrease. After all, teenagers and adults aren’t that different a species.
Get yourself and your staff spending dedicated amounts of time away from their inbox, making sure their weekends are spent relaxing. The improvement in their work performance will speak for itself.
About the Author
Paul Edge, director of Cruise Club UK, has spent over 25 years working to improve the travel industry. A proud dad of two, when not in an exotic location user-testing one of his luxury cruises, he’s exploring the world with his kids in tow.