Screens are everywhere in today’s society. Not only are they readily available, they have become a vital necessity for many businesses. Chances are, you can’t get along without your computers, smartphones, tablets, and more. At the same time, however, the impact of screen addiction is becoming increasingly apparent in our society. This includes:
- Backache and neck problems from too much time hunched over a desk
- Vision problems from staring at a screen too frequently
- Compulsive behaviors like checking a smartphone constantly or an inability to be away from email without feelings of guilt
- Anxiety associated with time away from screens
- Social isolation
- Compromised sense of time or difficulty keeping up with time
- Avoiding actual work tasks, especially those that require walking away from the computer or signing out of the internet
Unfortunately, many businesses are inadvertently increasing the symptoms of screen addiction in their employees by requiring constant use of screens in order to keep up with daily work tasks. This doesn’t mean, however, that your business has to continue to be an offender! Instead, try some of these strategies to help reduce screen addiction across your workplace, ultimately creating happier, healthier employees.
Strategy #1: Reduce the Need to Check In
The ready availability of smartphones and other devices makes it easy for employees to check in from wherever they are–and that means employees can complete work no matter what else they’re doing! Unfortunately, the need to check in constantly can lead to high levels of anxiety and significantly increase digital addiction. Instead, look for ways to reduce the number of times in a day that your employees need to check in through their digital devices. This might include:
- Waiting until the work day actually starts to send out important emails. This will help reduce the need for that morning check-in, in turn significantly lightening digital stress for your employees.
- Using phone calls or text messages to check in, rather than using apps or emails that employees have to check constantly.
- Reducing the amount of time employees have to spend “on call.” Work time is work time–and when they clock out, employees should have the freedom to enjoy time with their families.
Reducing the amount of time employees need to spend on their devices when they’re away from the office can go a long way toward fighting digital addiction. By freeing your employees from the need to check in, you allow them to be much more present in their everyday lives.
Strategy #2: Turn Off Devices During Meetings
You’ve seen it: employees come in for a meeting, only for everyone to sit around the table, devices in hand, as they wait for the meeting to actually start. In some cases, employees might not even look up from their devices when the meeting begins! When you gather your employees together for a meeting, ban the devices. Turn them off entirely, drop them into a basket that’s kept outside the room until the meeting is over, or simply institute an honor policy: no checking devices unless it’s an emergency (or actually needed for the meeting to progress, like checking an important scheduling item). In many cases, devices significantly detract from productivity during your meetings, leaving everyone struggling to focus on the task at hand. By removing the devices, you’ll quickly discover who is actually paying attention to the discussion. Create phone-free times throughout the office. Sure, you need a contingency plan for emergencies, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t offer times free from devices when employees will be better able to think and act creatively.
Strategy #3: Get Out of the Office
Not every minute of every business day needs to be completed within the four walls of the office. Instead of spending all day, every day, staring at a screen, look for ways to get employees out of their offices. Try some of these strategies to at least take a break from the screen:
- Go for a walk while discussing important concepts, policies, or projects
- Place a game room in the office: Foosball, pool, or air hockey can all help get employees away from their screens and interacting with their environments
- Have meetings in interesting off-site locations
- Go out for lunch as a department–no devices allowed!
- Choose a day and volunteer your time for a local charity. Pack food, serve the homeless, or build a playground: all physical activities that will get employees away from their screens
Strategy #4: Use More Off-Screen Opportunities
Technology offers a wide range of conveniences for you and your employees. With your apps, you can efficiently manage your time, keep up with your projects, and handle a wide range of other tasks all in the palm of your hand! Convenience, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should stay glued to a screen all the time. Try:
- Having meetings in person instead of via Skype or another app
- Using physical memos and newsletters (you can still store a copy online!)
- Taking physical notes, not virtual ones, during meetings
- Trying hands-on interaction with new concepts, rather than using apps and virtual study
- Encouraging employees to use paper and pen occasionally, rather than going straight to an app or program. Often, this can encourage creativity and increase memory retention!
Strategy #5: Host a Fitness Challenge
If you really want to get employees away from their screens, give them an incredible incentive! Host an office-wide fitness challenge. Encourage employees to get in their daily steps, lose weight as a team, or to complete a specific task together: a specific race that you run together as an office, for example. It’s difficult to complete physical training exercises with your face buried in a screen, so a fitness challenge is the perfect way to get your employees away from their devices and thinking outside the screen.
Decreasing screen time around your office is a challenge, but it’s one that’s incredibly worthwhile. As you decrease screen addiction, you’ll discover that your employees are more connected, more productive, and better able to engage with the world around them. As a result, they’ll often be better equipped to take on a range of assignments and challenges that they might not otherwise have been able to handle.