Day of Unplugging: Should HR reduce screen time?

'Limiting our access to technology can increase teamwork and communication in the workplace'

Day of Unplugging: Should HR reduce screen time?

Friday 6 March is the Day of Unplugging, a global 24-hour respite from technology and the chance to reflect on what our priorities should be in the workplace.

According to a Frog Recruitment Digital Diet poll, a monthly cash bonus of $250 would be enough to make people switch off their screens at work for some much needed “unplugging”.

The research questioned managers of more than 9,000 employees from New Zealand businesses, with the majority (83%) saying they would reduce their screen time at work if they were incentivised to do so.

Even more (92%) said they would put their team on a ‘digital diet’ to improve their overall health and wellbeing.

Frog Recruitment business relationship director, Jane Kennelly, said that while people will be encouraged to unplug and do things that reduce their technology or social media use on Friday, the poll results show an eagerness for workplaces to assess the amount of time their employees are on a screen and provide not only respite, but an incentive for people to switch off.

“We acknowledge that different industries have different screen time usage demands and going on a digital diet rather than a detox is still better than total saturation of devices,” said Kennelly.

But what employers need to do is understand how often their workforce is using digital devices and recognise that it is not healthy to stare at a screen for seven hours a day, added Kennelly.

“Digital obesity is a growing problem in New Zealand and the number of people addicted to their phones and social media is increasing at an alarming rate,” she said.

“Our desire for a healthier lifestyle both inside and outside the office means employers need to consider implementing ‘down time’ strategies or a digital diet to keep workers healthy and creative – it’s also crucial for maintaining productivity.”

American startup company Front has implemented an incentive for its employees, paying them 200 USD if they can reduce their screen time to less than two hours a day for an entire month.

The goal of the challenge is to help employees “resist the itch” to check their notifications and become more present and focused in their professional and personal lives.

Kennelly added that there are several other benefits of people “unplugging” at work, not least being more efficient and less distracted on tasks that require strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

“The ‘ping’ sounds of an inbox and our need to respond immediately can take us away from our flow of ideas and our ability to concentrate for long periods of time.

“Taking time away from our desks, machines or computers to have conversations with colleagues about ideas, sketch a concept or tackle a task manually can foster more workplace creativity,” she said.

“Limiting our access to technology can increase teamwork and communication in the workplace. Helping each other before defaulting to the internet is a good way to solve issues that happen between teams.

“Mentally, a digital diet will mean people experience less stress typically caused by being constantly ‘on call’ for the next job that pops up on our screens.”

Kennelly said that while technology continues to change the way we work, being aware of its impact is vital to not only our physical health but also our mental health.

“It is encouraging to see so many companies willing to take action, prioritising the wellbeing of their talent and recognising there is an opportunity to be more productive by being on devices less than we currently are. Offline will soon become our new luxury.”

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