I recently took a trip to the beautiful country of Malaysia, and the foreign sights, sounds and smells really did a number on me. For two whole weeks I was disconnected from everything I knew as “comfort” and “home” and the result was an amazing opportunity to experience life outside of a fast-paced, connected office. Upon my return I found a renewed energy and determination in my daily life. I realized there were things I was doing that weren’t valuable to me or to the business, so I reprioritized. I have to say, the secret to innovation really is a vacation.
But not everyone can afford to take two weeks away; most can’t even afford more than a weekend or possibly an hour thanks to hectic schedules and other obstacles. The time we get to be free from technology and tasks is precious and difficult to find. Our brains need to be able to rest so they can recharge, develop and grow. Unplugging is necessary for a team to be successful and creative.
I took a look at the routine of one of my employees recently. She would come into the office each day, sit down to work, maybe have a couple of interactions with people throughout the day and then leave for home. She was glued to her screens whether they were mobile or desktop. Communication should be a top priority for businesses and 88 percent of millennials—the new generation of skilled employees we all want to attract—want to work in a social work environment, so it’s time we re-evaluated how our team disconnect from technology in order to connect with each other.
What would happen if we took just one hour each week to unplug? And would you even create an environment that would allow that hour to happen? You could turn off the WiFi and demand employees place their phones in a jar, or you could create an event on a calendar for people to get up and move around. It’s up to you how you choose to achieve this hour, but the result you’ll see will be employees engaging with one another on a level that cannot be replicated through emails and Skype chats. You’ll hear a new office buzz devoid of clacking keyboards. This hour will foster a strong, healthy conversation between your team members, which will increase their overall satisfaction with the business.
Unplugging for a short time will also do wonders for your team’s productivity. If your team is up, moving around and talking with one another, chances are ideas will be flowing. The distraction of the computer or mobile device will have disappeared, so employees can focus on problem solving and concept creation. Keep white boards with markers up in the office or set up stations with paper, pens and anything else your team might need to record notes. Last but not least, measure their time. Record the changes you see in productivity and have employees report back to you. Ask them how they feel after their first “unplugged hour” and continue to ask week after week. Use their information to enhance this time of disconnect and show them how it’s improving workflow. The findings might just increase work ethic even further.
And while the idea of disengaging from your devices for an hour may seem daunting, there is little doubt this action will help relieve stress. Checking email, text messages, social media channels and other things on your mobile device often feels like a full-time job. It’s stressful feeling like you’re always being updated on news, Facebook posts and work emails. One study found that Internet addiction can cause the same psychological changes as alcohol and substance abuse, so you’re doing yourselves and your teams a favor by taking a break—even if only for an hour. Few people can go a couple of minutes without looking at their phones or computers, so that first hour of being unplugged will be difficult but ultimately worth the overall lifestyle benefit.
Let’s face it, we aren’t even moving about the office, filing papers and physically handing in reports and assignments to each other anymore. We are now a part of a connected generation, so it’s important that we steal some unplugged moments along the way. By encouraging your team to engage with one another and collaborate without technology, you’ll increase their satisfaction and reduce stress. There’s so much more to life and work than the hard-charged scenarios we see ourselves in, so let’s take these unplugged hours as an opportunity to celebrate our achievements and grow together.
Read more: “Unplugging” Will be a Trend Among 40+ Crowd