We can no longer live without our smartphones and without Wi-Fi.
The Arrect manager’s heavenly day
We can no longer live without our smartphones and without Wi-Fi. The fear of missing out on a piece of information, of not being sufficiently responsive to a request, of finding a full email inbox on our return from the holidays means that we are checking our smartphones more than 200 times a day. At the same time, with the explosion of communication channels (telephone, SMS, messaging, social networks, etc.) and the huge increase in digital conversations, we live permanently in a state of info-obesity that increases our stress levels, harms our sleep patterns and reduces our attention span.
As weird as it may seem to you, since January 2017, French law has recognized the right to disconnect. Either France is lagging behind or it is ahead of the rest of the world, for info-obesity is overwhelming and is impacting our lives in a big way. In France, hotels, restaurants and some event organizers have even implemented "Digital Detox" programs. And for good reason, as hyper-connection leads to unproductive over-engagement.
Besides the fact that it increases our risk of illness, it also highlights our inability to take control of our time including the time we allow for ourselves and for others. However, small daily changes can let us rebalance our personal, professional and social lives. It is possible to disconnect totally or partially without being seen as a has-been or an incompetent.
34% of British citizens and 41% of French people check their smartphone in the middle of the night.
Source : Deloitte, 2016
Sandra is a manager in an SME specializing in the manufacture of oxygen therapy equipment.*
* The names of the businesses and people in this article are fictional.
Back from holiday, Sandra gets back to the office without fear
After every absence (whether a holiday or not), Sandra arrives at the office early and has no appointments, meetings or conference calls. Since she has not had to accept meeting requests on the first day of her return, she has given herself time to adjust to being back to work without interruption or stress. She spends her first day without distraction other than a lunch with Vincent, a colleague, and a coffee break with her teams around 4 p.m. She also has a pre-planned meeting with her department head at 5:30 p.m. Everyone knows her return motto - just pretend I am not back yet! She will be better equipped to deal with any issues with speed and effectiveness by having this period of partial disconnection.
62% of French workers want regulations on the use of digital tools in the workplace
Source : Cabinet Eléas, 2016
Monday, 8:30 a.m., a silent mode return
She activates silent mode on her instant messenger as well as on her smartphone (do not disturb) so that the only calls that can get through are from four pre-programmed numbers which she had previously selected from her favorites (her partner, the children's school, her parents and her boss).
Before leaving, she had taken the opportunity to disconnect her work inbox from her smartphone so that it is no longer synced and to disable notifications of social media applications. A complete digital disconnection to find the time for herself and her loved ones! Once she had done all that, on her home screen, there were only basic applications like the GPS app. All other applications including the most time consuming (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) are put into folders and hidden away on her mobile’s second screen.
Today, although at work, she is sticking to her digital disconnection until she has a better view of what she needs to prioritize after her absence. It is a boost to her concentration that she will not hesitate to repeat!
34% of British smartphone users find it hard to disconnect from the device.
Source : Deloitte, 2016
A day without a smartphone, pen in hand
Although she does not know what happened while she was out of the office, the mental map on her desk that she had drawn the day before her holiday is refreshing her memory. It is providing a systemic overview of the files, tasks, collaborators, important dates and actions to be taken. Her file titles are identical to the labels that she set for incoming email.
She clears her desk. The mental map will be her main work tool today. Using a pencil and highlighters, she sets a priority level to each of the different areas.
Her main goal is to catch up by putting together up to date information to complete her mental map. She will not reply to messages until she has finished reading, sorting and deleting messages from the various communication channels (email, letters, memos and voice messages). The out-of-office auto-responders will remain in place until tomorrow morning.
Now she can open her mailbox and start dealing with everything in the folder labeled "Urgent #1" and so on, folder by folder, until she gets through the inbox.
of British people use their smartphone at work. They also rate smartphone usage in the workplace 4 out of 5 on a scale of intrusiveness.
Source: Deloitte 2016
Unplanned friendly and relaxing breaks
Although she had planned to spend the day alone that does not mean she deprived herself of some time out for herself. She takes a break from her computer screen and her phone every 25 minutes: A quick burst of sunshine for some vitamin D outside, a sitting mini-nap, some yoga for the eyes, a little walk or stretch. These micro-breaks lead to improved attention, promote creativity and reduce musculoskeletal and vision problems.
At the lunch break with her team, she leaves her smartphone in her office or in her handbag. There’s no need to have your eyes on your smartphone when you are with other people – that’s the time for conversation!
We all know that it is annoying to be with someone who is constantly looking at their smartphone or who lets themselves be distracted by constant notification lights – even if the beeps are on silent!
At the end of the day, she may not have responded to messages or calls but she knows where she is. She can start preparing her to-do list for the coming days.
But, before doing that, she wants to have a meeting with her boss so she can clarify certain things, find out any new priorities and have a coffee or a tea.
42% of 18-24 year-old Americans agree that the 8-hour day is a thing of the past
Source: USA TODAY, 2016
To disconnect is a necessity for her and for others
Sandra is worried about having enough time to share between colleagues, friends, family, working and rest.
As a manager, she has set out these three rules for both her and her teams:
• Set time slots to answer calls/messages and slots to log out at least once a day
• Checking email only three times a day (morning, after lunch, end of day)
• A ban on sending after-hours email
For these reasons, Sandra has no problem authorizing a total disconnection for her teams during holidays as well as a partial disconnection on their return.
Ensuring the wellbeing, health and safety of employees is a joint responsibility between the employees and the employer. Taking care to disconnect completely (no Wi-Fi, no phone, no computer), partially (logging out of work email) or in a modulated way (muting some applications) is a duty for Sandra and her staff.
So, throughout the year, Sandra plans for disconnection times. This prevents being caught by notifications or tempted to check comments every five minutes, or even to browse aimlessly from app to app. To do this, she has to be self-disciplined, organizing digital breaks in the evenings (from 7 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.), weekends (using the Do Not Disturb function on devices) and during all meal times. She even switches off her smartphone or blocks her Internet connection using apps such as Freedom, Phone Detox or Moment!
The right to disconnect (a law enforced since January 1, 2017 in France) includes:
• Compulsory bargaining in businesses of more than 50 employees
• A charter in case of disagreement, to be drawn up by the employer after consultation with the works council or, failing that, with staff representatives. It sets out the various ways that staff can exercise their right to disconnect.
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