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Nine tips to unplug in the workplace

July 26, 2019
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As a society, slowing down isn’t always easy as we’re more connected than ever — with 96% of Americans owning a cell phone and 1 in 4 admitting they’re “constantly online,” according to the Pew Research Center.

While our phones, tablets and laptops bring us desired information and constant connectivity both personally and in the workplace, researchers say we all could benefit from breaking the digital cycle every so often.

If a digital detox sounds like it might be something you want to try this summer, here are a few tips to make it happen. And if you aren’t quite ready to go completely cold turkey with no tech, that’s OK. Try implementing just one or two of these tips to disconnect from digital and reconnect with yourself and those around you.

Check your settings

Remove work email notifications and social media push notifications for a break from the constant alerts. Studies show Americans check their phones on average once every 12 minutes, adding up to 80 times per day. Instead, use that time to go for a quick half-hour walk outside with a friend or colleague while you’re at work.

Set time limits

Most of us need to check email for work or personal matters and can’t go too long without knowing what our friends all around the world are up to. Although those things are often necessary, remember you can set and control the limits on how much time you spend online. Check your email once a day in the morning and again in the afternoon. Respond to, delete or file emails for later in a 20-minute or half-hour time frame. For social, set a timer on your phone to browse Facebook or Instagram. When the time is up, turn off your device and head outside or do a nondigital task to give your brain a break from scrolling newsfeeds.

Organize no-tech meetings

Most people head into a meeting with their laptops in hand and presentations on screen. Try setting up a few meetings where technology can be left at the desk. This helps limit distractions from bright screens and notifications, and it allows people to focus on generating ideas or engaging in verbal communication with their coworkers. Technology-free meetings can be particularly useful during strategy or brainstorming sessions.

Leave devices at the office

At least one or two days per week, leave your devices, like your laptop or work smartphone, in the office when you leave. Let your manager know that you won’t be checking your email after hours and save any technology-necessary work for the next day. Your home should be a place where you can wind down and relax; you will be more focused and productive when you come back to work the next morning.

One screen at a time

When you do need screen time for work or other important to-do’s like paying bills or shopping for essentials, experts advise using one screen only to protect your eyes and brain. This also is applicable outside of the workplace, such as when you’re scrolling through social media sites while watching TV. Try limiting yourself to one digital activity at a time.

Turn on airplane mode for a break

If you’re having a hard time turning your phone or other devices completely off, try taking a vacation vibe approach and turning on airplane mode. This pauses incoming calls and texts to help keep your mind on the task at hand, making it a great option if you’re trying to focus on a timely project or completing a lengthy task.

Get mutual support

Too afraid to detach from digital on your own? Don’t go it alone. Get a friend or colleague (or two) to join you. You can share tips on what works best, what you both learn and feel during the process, and find support in each other. Just like the benefit of having an exercise or healthy eating partner or group, you’ll likely have better success if you have strong support around you.

Tell people you’re detoxing

To avoid feelings of guilt or missing out, tell your work colleagues and your boss that you’re trying to detox from digital for a bit. This way, any crucial updates can be delivered with a real phone call or even an in-person visit — leading to more quality, deeper connections with those around you. And who knows, you may even inspire them to give it a try for their own benefit.

Try an electronic fast

Have a free weekend or day off coming up? Try a day or two of fasting from electronics. Of course, you can have your phone nearby for emergency calls or checking on family/friends, but a 24-hour electronic fast can recharge your own batteries and allow you to truly feel refreshed. Instead, schedule outdoor activities during this time — like a hike, bike ride or trip to a local beach or park. Priority Health offers some creative ways to get outdoors and be active this summer in Michigan if you need some ideas.

Try one or two of these tips — or all nine if you’re game for a major brain break. In return, you’ll enjoy the many benefits of going tech-free, like a boost in productivity and even learning, plus better rest and more meaningful connections with those around you.

Rebecca Mason, RDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and product specialist in the Wellness Department at Priority Health. She is certified in adult weight management and has a background in both clinical nutrition and wellness programming.

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