Digital detox should begin at the workplace

Organisations have to ensure work-related technology does not eat into employees’ personal space

Addiction to technology is hardly noticed, let alone addressed, when it revolves around work.

The people around you may notice it: You are responding to work-related mail far too often than you are required to. But since it is work-related, those around you may let you get away with it.

Sometimes, you may be using technology more than you should, even at work. So, some companies manage screen time for their employees by blocking social media sites from computers. But that may not always help as notifications can pop up on personal phones.

A digital detox is effective only when it starts with the employee, with self-awareness. It begins by admitting that one is addicted to technology and seeks tools that can free them of the addiction.

Ironically, some of the most effective tools to fight tech-addiction are tech-based themselves.

Manoj Kumar Sharma, professor, SHUT Clinic, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, says it’s all right to take the help of technology to fight tech addiction, because the intent is there to keep technology in its right place.

Features in the mail box that will ask users whether they want to send mail after a certain time, or having a timer that warns one of doing an “overtime” on the computer, and ‘do not disturb’ mode are a few ways employers can get their workforce to take a break from gadgets.

Sharma says workplaces must look for signs of tech-addiction among employees and also show employees how they can keep their day less packed with technology. For a starter, they can plan meetings creatively, structuring it in such a manner that they don’t involve any screens, smartphones or computers.

But, how easy is it to stop responding to mail post-work hours?

Last year, Amazon India country head, Amit Agarwal reportedly sent an email to colleagues, asking them to stop responding to email and work calls between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the interest of “work-life harmony”.

At Google’s IO 2019, a meet for developers at San Franciso, the organisers are said to have asked the attendees to turn off their mobile phones and talk to one another.

Fintech start-up ToneTag has a ‘no digital policy’ at its ‘Morning Circle’, the weekly team meetings. Employees are refrained from stepping in with mobile phones and laptops. Besides, meditation and yoga at work are encouraged as part of a digital detox exercise.

Identifying champions

Bengaluru-based Ishwarya Kumar Ahmed, who runs digital detox programmes for children, parents and corporates, says, “My former employer insisted that the workforce followed the famous “20-20-20” rule, which is about looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes, to fight eye fatigue that comes from being glued to the computer screen. The employee reinforced it, and made it a part of the culture of the organisation.” Ishwarya says corporates must take up digital detox as a moral responsibility.

“Edutech startups can have a feature in their Apps whereby the screen will freeze after a certain time. Similarly, restaurants can offer discounts to those not using gadgets on the table, and office canteens can have jammers at dinning area,” she suggests.

Sorav Jain, CEO of Echovme, a digital marketing company, decided to use his digital influence to launch the #DigitalUpwaas challenge in June. The idea was to spend any Sunday without any digital leisure. He also brought out a survey covering more than 70,000 people to study tech addiction. He next plans to use the data to reach out to clients and nudge them to find ways to fight tech addiction.

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