Happy Holidays. Time to disconnect. There have been so many surveys about the addictive power of social media and the need to stay in touch with email. For example a 2009 study found that It found that their sample used social media in the car (over 35 – 9%, under 35 – 40%), at work (over 35 – 29%, under 35 - 64%), on vacation (over 35 – 41%, under 35 - 65%), on a date (over 35- 9%, under 35 - 34%), and after sex (over 35 - 8%, under 35 - 36%). More recent studies find the numbers growing. With email it is even worse,
The New York Times addressed this issue recently with, The Workplace Benefits of Being Out of Touch. Sounds good to me. The problem is that most of us feel that if everyone else is available 24 hours, then we have to be, too. The article quotes, Dalton Conley, dean for the social services at New York University and author of “Elsewhere” (Pantheon, 2009), “Then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy — if we’re always available, then we’re expected to always be available.”
However, the article goes on to say that companies are increasingly realizing that employees need to be disconnected from time to time and that “giving workers time to chill helps ultimate long-term productivity.” A survey of 1,600 managers and professionals and found that only 2 percent turned off their devices, even while on vacation.
There is a two-edge sword here. Having device to remote access allows for longer time spent away from your normal work place. I spent a month in Greece in April because I could be connected when I wanted to but I was disconnected for most of that time. Then I went to New Orleans for three weeks because of the same benefit. But you cannot stay connected the whole time or you might as well stay home. I also found that being disconnected for long periods of time opens me up to new ideas.
A few companies are recognizing this value as reported in the Times article. The Boston Consulting group is now giving team members a night off while others cover for him or her. You need to strike a balance here. The key is being in control. As someone who works part time, I now work online extensively for certain periods of time and then take whole days off and disconnected. While a full time worker may not be able to do this they can, and should take some nights and major portions of weekends away from electronic devices to participate in the real world.
Having written this post, I am going to reward myself with a long bike ride, but one enhanced by my iPod and leave my iPhone behind.