Many of us are glued to our phones—especially work devices—even when we’re not at work. But at what cost?
A lot, as it turns out. In fact, it could be making you sick!
The pressure to stay connected, to work when not at work, and to be ‘on call’ has increased dramatically.
A majority of us feel as though we have to respond quickly—within 15 minutes—to work emails, or at least by the end of the day.
In addition to feeling the stress of a quick response, we also respond to emails on weekends and during vacation time — the time we’re supposed to be switched off and living! Add to that checking work emails when we’re sick.
More men than women, and more younger people than older, have work email on their smart devices, but the stress affects both genders and all age groups.
So it’s clear mobile technology has placed new pressures on workers across all demographics, with most struggling to disconnect.
Are you feeling the pressure?
I’ve paid close attention to my reliance on technology and it’s impact on my health over the last few years. And the results haven’t been pretty:
- I was riddled with anxiety – interestingly we’re seeing an increase in anxiety and stress disorders, as well as decreased attention spans ESPECIALLY in teenagers
- I had a panic attacks when the phone rang or beeped
- I checked my multiple email accounts and social media accounts at least 30 times an hour, triggering my anxiety
- Not checking my email accounts and social media accounts would trigger anxiety
- I was increasingly scattered and forgetful. My attention span decreased – this study showed a correlation between accessing information online and memory recall
- I developed RSI in my hands [When you tilt your head forward 60 degrees to look at your phone, you’re putting 60 pounds of pressure on your neck, according to a study by New York spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj]
- I gained weight, felt sluggish all the time, and was exhausted
- I had a permanent back and neck ache (as well as bad posture)
- My eyes were tired, signalled by a droopy left eyelid
- I drank more caffeine and booze at the cost of water. Some days I even went without drinking a drop of water!
- I broke out in eczema on my face
- I had 3 car accidents in 1 1/2 years, the last being in my drive way.
Does this sound familiar?
Learning to Unplug
I’ve tried hard to unplug but still have times where I binge on all things online, jumping mindlessly from one social network to another and back again, only to end up with a brain feeling like mush.
I also accept that being online is something of a necessity these days. As a blogger, small business owner, and consultant, I need it. I also love it! I love the connection, I love the people I meet, I love the access to information, and I love the opportunities!
So after trying and failing and trying again, here’s some of the things that have helped me curb my dependence on my phone:
- Introduce a technology curfew. Outside of the hours of 7.30am – 7.30pm I’m generally ‘offline’. I try really hard to not check my emails, Facebook, Twitter – anything ‘online’ outside of this time period. It’s my way of giving my brain permission to log off and relax, and it’s definitely helped my stress levels
- Switch off all the notifications on your phone. Yep, turn them all off! This helped decrease my anxiety!
- Don’t check in. Do people really need to know where you are and when? Or are you just showing off? When you are somewhere, be all there. Anyhow, do you really need to announce to the stalkers, robbers, and other dodgy folk that you aren’t at home?
- Go cold turkey. Remove the Apps you’re addicted to from your phone. Facebook is a biggy for most people, and I’ll fess up and admit that I found culling Facebook crazy hard. But as the days passed it became easier, and eventually I wouldn’t rush home to log in to my laptop to check on what I had missed because I hadn’t missed ANYTHING!
- Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe from everything that isn’t providing you with value
- Switch to ‘do not disturb’ mode. Set your phone to automatically change over to ‘do not disturb’ mode for your technology curfew times, or most importantly, during your bed time. Bed is for sleep (and sex). Not for scrolling through Facebook
- Reset expectations. Set boundaries. Talk to your boss, colleagues, friends and family about resetting expectations and setting up some boundaries. Unless you have a job requiring you to be ‘on’ 24 hours a day (that should be the exception not the expectation) then you shouldn’t have to be ‘on’ all of the time. Sure, some won’t like it. Those that matter will adjust. Personally it can take me 5 days to respond to a text message these days. Those who love and get me, understand!
- Work smarter not longer. Social media management tools such as Buffer are a great way to manage social media accounts in one place and set up a bit of a schedule so that you don’t have to be online all the time!
- When you go on vacation, be on vacation. Don’t log in to your work emails whilst on holiday or a day off. Doing so just sets a precedence
- Make a lifestyle choice. Change positions, jobs or careers. Move into something less stressful and more offline. I’ve gone from project management, to freelancing and social media management, to working casually in a cafe whilst freelancing!
- Go offline. I first went totally ‘offline’ when I attended a weekend mind and body retreat. It was bloody hard but I was so relaxed and rested by the end of that weekend I knew I needed to do it regularly. A great way to do this is to leave your phone at home, in your bag, at the bottom of a drawer, or just turn the bloody thing off! So do yourself a favour and set yourself some ‘offline’ time each day or week. I generally make this a Saturday or a Sunday and do something crazy like reading a book (made of paper), going for a walk, taking a nap, or – shock horror – GARDENING (I never saw that one coming)!
Have you tried unplugging? What has and hasn’t worked for you?
And what are you and your workplace doing to make sure you have work / life balance?
For further information and statistics, check out this article.
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