HR Management & Compliance

6 Ways to Introduce A Digital Detox to Your Employees (and Why it Could Boost Productivity)

Technology unquestionably makes our working lives easier, adding flexibility and convenience—but does it make us happier in the office?

Source: Julia_Sudnitskaya / iStock / Getty

Studies that correlate a fall in well-being with extensive use of technology are beginning to stack up. The idea of the “Digital Detox” is being posited as a solution. A digital detox simply means to refrain from using digital or electronic devices for a certain period of time. Here are six ways every office can begin a their digital detox—and potentially boost productivity in the process.

Six Ways to Digital Detox in the Office

1. No-Tech Meetings

Rather than everyone heading into meetings with laptops in hand and presentations on screen, handpick a few meetings that are strictly technology-free.

This can be particularly useful when brainstorming new ideas. Without the distractions of bright screens and instant messaging alerts, people’s attention remains on the generation of ideas, placing greater emphasis on verbal communication to strike up a new concept.

2. Take Regular Breaks

The most productive employees reportedly work for 52 minutes in a concentrated, constructive burst, before having a 17-minute break. Encourage these breaks to be free from any use of technology. Give your eyes a rest from screens, refreshing your body and mind in preparation for your next 52-minute burst.

3. Organize Workplace Yoga (or Similar Mindfulness Activities)

Lunchtime is another period of the day when people are often drawn to their social media feeds or favorite online news outlet. But having spent most of the morning in front of some form of technology, it can be better to give your mind, eyes, and fingers a rest.

One way companies can help is by organizing lunchtime activities that focus on boosting well-being. Yoga is a particularly popular example. Alternatively, you could strike up a partnership with the local gym, offering staff discount rates to lunchtime classes.

4. Adopt a Tech-Free Window

Create an hour-long window on a weekly or even daily basis, where your whole company switches off from technology and focuses on their individual tasks. This might work better if you stick to non-essential tech, such as email and instant messaging.

While this can help employees to focus without unnecessary distraction, it can also stimulate face-to-face conversation among your teams.

5. Give Everyone a Digital Detox Buddy

Some are inevitably going to embrace the tenants of the Digital Detox more than others, but a buddy system could help everyone to fully realize the benefits. You might see a bigger uptake when individuals have someone else to bounce ideas off, sharing what has and hasn’t worked for them.

6. Adopt a “Leave in the Office” Policy

Dedicate in a day in your working week that encourages staff to leave their devices, like work laptops and work smartphones, in the office when they leave. Ensure managers don’t send emails to their team out of hours or ask of anything from staff that would require them to switch back on when at home.

Employees should be free to wind down and relax when they enter their home. It’ll lead to a more focused and productive workforce when they come back into work the next day.

How it May Benefit Your Employees

Letting your employees leave their work at work is particularly relevant to why the Digital Detox can have such a positive impact on your team’s productivity. It may seem counter-productive to suggest that using less of the productivity-boosting tech we rely on every day will actually increase output, but ample evidence suggests regular breaks from technology can improve our mental state.

In 2012 for example, the University of Gothenburg found that excessive use of smartphones was linked to stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms. Couple this with use of a computer and the risk is amplified.

Sleep disorders should be of particular concern when looking to maximize performance. A bad night’s sleep can lead to a whole host of productivity-damaging issues like poor memory, limited creativity, and a shorter attention span.

The result can be damaging to a business’s revenue. A study from Hult International Business School suggested that organizations lose $2,280 a year per sleep-deprived employee.

The real-world evidence is already out there too. Business owners who have adopted a Digital Detox policy are seeing the benefits, with one organization reducing the stress levels of their workforce by 47%—simply by removing emails and instant messaging apps as methods of team-communication.

Employees are obviously free to act in whatever way they choose when they are at home. But businesses can limit the amount of out of office distractions they place on employees, which in turn can help them to gain better rest and recuperation to achieve greater productivity when in the office.

Travis May is CEO of Tollfreeforwarding.com, providing U.S. Toll Free numbers to 25,000 customers spanning 125 countries worldwide.