Do You Take a Break From Technology?
Have you heard of ‘blue sky time’? It is a phenomenon where you dedicate a certain amount of time to being off your phone and away from technology.
Taking a break from technology can benefit individuals massively. From increasing your productivity, reducing stress, and increasing your physical health, research suggests that taking a break from looking at your phone, laptop or TV is vitally important for a healthy lifestyle.
However, taking some blue-sky time has become virtually impossible for many during lockdown. Data shows that individual usage of WhatsApp, Slack, Twitter, Instagram, emails and texts is now a near-constant activity.
Low levels of blue-sky time have also impacted people’s professional careers. Having your work computer at home has increased employee anxiety over what could be waiting your inbox because they have been easily accessible 24/7 for over a year now.
It is clear that the freedom of WFH has inadvertently caused a blurring of the lines between work and leisure time.
For some, this blurred line is not a hinderance. Everyone works in different ways. One group of employees may prefer having 24/7 access to email and text correspondences so to keep their responsibilities under control. Whereas another group may need time to switch off from work-related enquiries for a period of time to re-charge.
Another argument could be that we all have autonomy over whether to respond or read e-mails that are sent to us outside work hours. Should we be creating our own rules that are tailored to our individual preferences and working styles?
Some companies have taken steps to create a blanket rule surrounding this topic.
In 2014, car company Daimler generated reams of positive press by creating a system that automatically deleted e-mails while employees were on holiday.
The system ‘Mail on Holiday’ is still in place as an opt in system. Emails send while workers are away are deleted and the sender receives a reply offering an alternative contact for urgent requests. This means employees cannot check their emails while out of the office and do not return to thousands of unread emails.
With the system being ‘opt in’ it gives employees the choice. While this system may work for some, it would not work for everyone. Especially when you cannot predict the importance of emails sent to you while you are away.
Governments are discussing similar ideas to this. Ireland have even introduced the “right to disconnect” that means employees should not routinely have to work outside normal hours, including responding to emails. The code, published by the country’s Workplace Relations Commission, also includes the “duty to respect another person’s tight to disconnect” – for example, by not sending emails outside work hours.
But if emails are as addictive as social media, is a government policy going to make any difference to our own personal habits?
Perhaps the solution to achieving a digital disconnect is a return to the office.
Returning to the office will bring more structure to our days, as this will hopefully bring back the normality of emails either being sent or scheduled to be sent within working hours.