How being unplugged can be good for you, your business

benefits of unplugging

The first Friday in March is “National Day of Unplugging” and it’s worth taking this time not only to enjoy a respite from the Internet, but to critically examine our connections to the virtual world.

You may have read the news earlier that France enacted a law requiring companies with 50 or more employees to establish hours when their workers should not send or answer emails. The ideas behind the law were that employees should be paid for their time and that “unplugged” time would decrease burnout. (Will it impact productivity in France? I’m not sure and that’s one issue Allison DeNisco examines in this TechRepublic article.)

It’s difficult to argue with either of those points and we should all keep them in mind for ourselves and for our employees. I’m not in favor of government regulating details like these, however, you should have policies and create a work environment that provides flexibility while protecting your team from undue off-hour work pressures.

Sleep on it

There is a bigger picture to see here, however, and that is the personal downside of being plugged in all day long. Use the National Day of Unplugging to educate yourself and your employees on the dangers of digital addiction.

The connection between staring at glowing small screens and sleep disorders is well established. The blue light emitted from our mobile device screens disturbs our melatonin production, which makes it difficult for us to fall asleep. Apple has an optional screen setting that reduces this blue light during specified hours of the day, but I don’t know how well it works to reduce the sleep issues.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems caused by small-screen dependency is a breakdown in personal relationships. We don’t interact with people eye-to-eye very much today; we interact message-to-message.

Plug in personal connections

That can’t be entirely good. Further, if you take time to develop more personal – as in “in-person” – relationships with your customers or clients, there is a good chance that it will set you apart from many of your competitors.

I was talking to a friend about the difficulty of finding healthcare providers in a new city. He told me how much he liked his previous dentist and one of the reasons he cited was that his dentist would personally call to check if everything was okay after a procedure. His new dentist does a lot of notifying via text message, which is convenient, but there is no personal touch.

Our connection dependency – the new co-dependency – reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon I saw. A couple is sitting at a restaurant table. The man says to the woman, “Is there anything wrong? You’ve hardly touched your phone.”

So how about making this pledge and encouraging your employees to do the same: For one day, restrict your smartphone use to just making voice calls and experience the difference it makes.

If it’s not too bad, extend it.