The Right to Disconnect

Updated on October 11, 2020
smartphone addiction and FOMO

We might tumble out of bed on a Monday morning, and sleepily walk into the kitchen to pour ourselves a cup of ambition (or maybe just a plain old tea or coffee, your preference!), but are we all still working Nine to Five, like the legendary Dolly Parton sang almost 40 years ago?

Figuratively speaking, you can assume a 9-5.00 pm workday is still the norm, but upon further reflection, aren’t most of us now on the job 24 hours a day? Amongst our ever-growing digital landscape, the humble smartphone has got us bringing our work home in our pockets, whether we want to or not.

We’re always contactable, whether it’s via calls, emails or mobile chat apps. We’re also online all the time: texting with colleagues or family members, checking email, or even playing games like no deposit codes fair go. As our ability to stay in touch has shifted, so have expectations – the idea that we must answer our superior’s calls at midnight on a random Monday has snuck up on us, and although it’s no doubt beneficial for our employers, it could be contributing to the rise of work-based burnout.

Have we perhaps become too contactable? Is the fact that we’re practically on call 24/7 counter-productive to our productivity levels?

The statistics show that we’re checking our phones an awful lot: 38% of UK-based adults routinely check their emails after dinner, while 50% of Americans check their email once they’re tucked up in bed. Not exactly conducive to the ability to easily drift off to sleep! What’s more, 55% of those based in Asia Pacific, and 27% of European workers wake during the night to check their mobile devices! Forty-four percent of adults surveyed admitted to checking their phone while on vacation. Not exactly relaxing. If that isn’t bad enough, how about this factoid: people in Singapore are spending over 12 hours a day on their smartphones and related gadgets.

Clearly, it’s time for us to think about disconnecting.

The fear of missing out

We’re all familiar with the term FOMO, otherwise known as fear of missing out. It’s usually applied by millennials in a ‘carpe diem’ kind of way – attend the party, go to the festival, say yes to the date. However, it seems a large percentage of the workforce are feeling FOMO when it comes to their responsibilities in the workforce: the Center for Creative Leadership found that a whopping 60% of smartphone-using professionals keep in touch with their bosses and colleagues for a shocking 13.5 hours a day! Why are we so frightened of not being contactable?

The productivity lie

The problem mainly lies in two areas – one, that we, as a society, have collectively come to believe in the myth of presenteeism. Whomever gets to the office first, stays latest, and now, answers the group email the quickest (even at 5.45 pm on a Saturday) is considered the hardest worker. Most of us are keenly aware that this isn’t actually the case, but the illusion pervades, because we’ve been conditioned to view being at our bosses’ beck and call as the be-all and end-all of hard work.

Secondly, and more insidiously, our devices are becoming, in many ways, an extension of ourselves. It’s too tempting to pick up our smartphone when we hear a notification, or just to double check our emails once we’ve slid into bed. The danger of our modern technology is that the incredible ease of use it provides, can also further promote the delusion that hard work = always being on call, because it makes it so much simpler for us to stay connected. Many experts have written extensively on the dangers of becoming too attached to our smartphones, from disrupted sleep patterns to a loss of social skills. Like most things in our modern lives, balance is key.

How to achieve smartphone harmony

Many countries have already recognized the weighty impact that overuse of mobile devices and 24/7 contact with work can have, with many governments and businesses swiftly addressing the issue. France is ahead of the game globally, with government legislation allowing all French workers the ‘right to disconnect’. Further to this, some French companies have taken it upon themselves to turn off their email servers outside of working hours.

While it may take some time for every global business and governing body to catch up to Francec, the idea of taking responsibility for our work/life balance, as much as we possibly can, is pertinent in the fight against being chained to both our desks and email accounts. What can you do to make your working life that little bit easier, especially when at home, officially outside of working hours?

Your disconnection challenge!

Tomorrow morning when you yawn and stretch and try to come to life, try to avoid being part of the 68% of professionals who check their work emails before 8.00 am, and try to not be one of the 60% of workers who are connected via their devices for 13.5 hours a day.

Put down your phone and try and disconnect for as much time as you can feasibly manage. Not only will some time away from screens help clear your mind, but it could also help boost your productivity levels during the day.


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