How easy is it to communicate today? As a person falling somewhere between the Baby Boomers and Generation X, I can remember a time when you were driving and you needed to find a phone box to make a call. Once you found a box, it was more likely it was vandalised and unworkable, but I digress.
Now we have mobile phones, email to our smartphones, laptops, tablets and desktops and social media all demanding our attention 24/7.
I found it quite curious the other day to hear via a survey that a huge number people look at the phone messages, texts, emails, or social media in bed, before saying good morning to their partners each day.
The media enable our digital device relationship, encouraging us to engage by tweeting, posting or voting to our favourite TV and radio shows.
We are now powered up around the clock and some of this is due to our employers taking advantage of our ability to communicate so easily when we are away from work and out of business hours. Therefore, sometimes we have good reason to constantly check our devices.
Always progressive, France is set to pass a new law that would give people the “right to disconnect” from emails outside the office. The French must be recognising that our digital technology is impacting our lifestyle.
The flip side of this fantastic ability to be found almost anywhere in the universe, is the constant stress you may feel and not being able to put work problems to one side. You are also swapping your lifestyle for work, the loss being time spent with family and friends and on leisure activities.
Wherever we go, people are trying to make sure they unburden us from our devices for just short periods of time. Phones are to be switched off in many public places where you might disturb others enjoyment and yours. Try answering a call in the movies or the opera and watch the audience response.
So what can you do to unchain yourself from your device after work hours? If you have always been available to your employer 24/7 this might be a tricky situation to change and it may need to be done gradually.
Firstly, you could turn off your phone (hence email and text) for shorter periods of time, a couple of hours or so and check your messages and respond after this time. You may be able to extend this digital disconnect over a period of time.
Sometimes a little white lie might be in order. You may need to tell your boss you will be out of mobile range this weekend. This is quite possible with our lack of service in regional areas.
Ensure you delegate responsibility when going on holiday, with great colleagues you can entrust them take care of any day to day business while you are away.
Maybe keep one phone for work and one for friends and family? It’s really hard to ignore that email chime when you leave your phone on.
Of course, there are occupations and urgent projects where you will not be able to shed this electronic leash, but maybe you can digital detox in small ways.
Switch off your phone at lunchtime and dinner. Take short technology breaks during the day, remember we have been all encouraged to leave our desks to stretch and rest our eyes anyway.
Segment your days into computer work and other work – planning, organising etc. Only answer emails at certain times, even if you need to put an auto-response on your mail system.
If you are an employer, you should encourage digital detox and be aware of employee downtime. Do you really need an answer to your question that night or on the weekend?
If you are considering a digital detox it won’t be easy, as we are programmed to keep checking our devices.
Feeling brave? Switch off for a weekend and see how you go. Even boredom gives us time to relax and think of new ideas and far off places. Don’t forget to tell the boss you will be unavailable first!