How many times throughout the day do you check your email? Once when you get in to the office in the morning? Throughout the entire work day? All the way up until you lay down to fall asleep? A recent study showed that workers who have smartphones are on them at least 13.5 hours a day and five hours on the weekend. With our incessant need to have our phones handy at all times, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that 38% of workers check email “routinely” at the dinner table and 50% check before going to bed.
On the surface, getting extra hours of work from an employee seems like a great deal for companies who provide smartphones, laptops or tablets, but in reality it can also be counterproductive. Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT who studies how devices are redefining communication, points out that our constant need to check email causes us to become transactional instead of inspirational. She believes that companies should encourage employees to unplug and that there are already innovative businesses that are setting the new precedent.
Bandwidth, a fast-growing telecom company in Raleigh, NC is one of many companies moving towards improving after-hour work expectations. The company offers its nearly 400 employees a unique perk in the form of guaranteed time to unplug. The company has implemented a strictly enforced vacation embargo policy that bars any contact with employees while they are off. Leaders of the company state that the policy allows people to fully value their time off and be present with family and friends outside of the office.
Some other companies that are catching on to the idea of recharging and retaining talent include a New York start-up called Quirky, who closes their office for a week three times a year and implements an email “blackout period,” and Boston Consulting Group who guarantees one email-free evening a week for all of its consultants.
Companies are beginning to recognize that the constant connection with employees can cause valuable workers to leave or burn out. Though it is a hard habit to break, start trying to implement some appropriate times in your day in which you briefly disconnect and take a break. Putting your smartphone away and investing in your time away from work can boost overall career happiness and give you a much needed mental break.