It’s okay to take a digital detox in the office

With the ‘always on’ culture a major factor impacting work-life balance, Amy McKenzie, responsible for business development at Tétris South Africa, explains how the JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) concept is making its presence felt in progressive South African office spaces.

We’re under constant bombardment. Emails can arrive in your inbox at any time of day or night – and if you’re into wearables, you’ll ‘feel’ them on your wrist. We all belong to several work WhatsApp groups, one more distracting than the next. Then there are our social media timelines and must-read, latest breaking news. The ‘9 to 5’ work culture no longer exists – we are constantly connected. Observe the behaviour of your colleagues at your next meeting – who is actually focused on the subject at hand when that phone or laptop beckons, one intrusive notification after the other?

Our digital habits have become so entrenched that we are at risk of losing the art of concentration in this on-demand, distracted work culture we all operate in. We’ve become too accessible, too prone to interruption. If research says most of us (Millennials in particular) check our phones on average 150 times a day, imagine what that is doing to our productivity levels.

We know we are in trouble when people go into panic-mode when their phone says ‘low battery’, and that there is an actual term for the irrational fear of being without your smartphone – it’s nomophobia!

In the corporate office fit-out industry, get-ahead companies are saying we need to push the pause button. Enter ‘digital dead zones’ – spaces in the modern office where there is no Wi-Fi coverage.

This dedicated disconnected space provides the perfect venue for no-tech meetings. Imagine how effective and efficient your next meeting could be without any digital distractions. This is a great idea for creative brainstorm sessions and forums that require focused attention.

A Wi-Fi-free space gives employees permission to escape to a place where they can fully concentrate on a particular report, important email, or to plot a planning process without any kind of digi-interruption.

These spaces can also be used as relaxation rooms – promoting breaks from prolonged screen time. A digital-free zone is an ideal on-site location for mindfulness activities, like meditation training or yoga classes, adding to the employee experience in the workplace.

At the very least, it can simply encourage face-to-face conversation among colleagues.

Added to this are other initiatives growing in momentum where employees have the right to disconnect from their smart devices at the end of a working day. It’s got everything to do with how you value the work/life balance of your staff.

While it may seem counter-productive to be encouraging a break from the tech we rely on every day to be effective, it sends an important message about employee wellbeing. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that ‘switching off’ regularly is good for our psyche, and with the human experience such a hot topic in the workplace, a space to take a digital detox says a whole lot of good things about a workplace culture.