Why You and Your Smartphone Need a Break
After a long day at work, likely permeated by the sounds of typing, clicking, buzzes and rings, you would think that we would be compelled to finally unplug. Yet, we wake up to the sounds of emails, texts, Facebook notifications and the like. We seem incapable of exhibiting even the smallest forms of restraint when a smartphone is always within reach.
Let’s face it; we are sleeping with our smartphones. Take my personal wake-up ritual: amid a haze of perpetual snoozing, I finally surrender too few hours of sleep to my smartphone alarm. The day’s very first activities entail feeding myself with information before even addressing breakfast; I check my emails, respond to texts and navigate social media as if all dire necessities.
Understanding the Addiction
Sound familiar? On many days, it may seem that the relationship you are most committed to is the one you share with your smartphone. But why are we so hooked? In the book Sleeping with Your Smartphone, Harvard business professor Leslie Perlow argues that attachment to our smartphone is very much dictated by our work habits and the way in which we associate work to success.
In the business world, which largely defines itself by its competitive nature, the workaholic is held on a pedestal. We equate busyness with responsibility and productivity; people operate according to the idea that the person who works most is, by extension, the most likely to succeed. The smartphone removes all boundaries that had previously defined the work sphere.
Every spare moment becomes an opportunity to start that task or send that last email. We are reluctant to stop and take a breather because we do not see any utility in it. In other words, we are addicted to our phones because we are addicted to success. Perlow maintains that this addictive behavior, i.e. our workaholism, is grounded in positive reinforcement. The more emails we respond to, the more we receive and the busier we thus become. This busyness is reinforced by positive signals in work environments. The workaholic is commended for their dedication and hard work.
All of this considered, if there is one thing that is known about addictive behavior, it is its self-destructive character. Constant connectivity has shown to skew priorities, compromise overall efficiency and even lead to burnouts. In short, constant connectivity is dysfunctional.
In order to create, more effective and engaged teams, Perlow suggests that companies focus on changing their value systems. Instead of positively reinforcing overbearing connectivity, company culture should value turning off. For example, at our company, one of our Core Values is Fun & Family. Understandably, the idea that we should work less is a hard sell. However, we have seen firsthand the benefits of balance between personal and professional life. In the words of President Christopher Thierry, “We want to make sure our people are not doing crazy hours and that they are going home to their family.”
Work less and be more efficient? According to Perlow, sometimes, it’s just that easy. The difficult part is adopting this principle and making it a team effort. So go ahead, give it a shot in your company. Send positive signals to employees and co-workers who turn off. Redefine success as being based on effectiveness rather than efficiency. In battling our smartphone addiction, set concrete and measurable goals for your team. Bring “Turning Off” to the discussion table and join the #Unplug movement!
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