Improve Mental Wellbeing by “Unplugging”

Eating. Sleeping. Screens. These three words can easily describe the average day of our tech obsessions during COVID 19. What you may be surprised to know is that these 3 words apply to a far wider segment of the American public. A 2019 report by Forbes cites that adults spend as much as 12 hours per day on screens (including TV). I’d like to dive into the second subject within this month’s theme of  employee experience and mental well-being: The Benefits of Unplugging. 

What is Unplugging? 

First, it’s important to know what it means to unplug. Is it simply disconnecting from tech or is it something deeper? I believe it’s both. Sure, you can simply disconnect by doing a “digital detox” or taking a “device-free” vacation but ultimately many of us will plug back in once the experience is over, habits unchanged. I believe the act of fully unplugging has deeper meaning. As Faisal Hoque says, “ unplug is to give up craving, to live mindfully…”. But, regardless of interpretation, there are real benefits to unplugging; benefits that can be reaped by your business and have positive effects on not only yours, but also your employees’ experience and mental well-being. 

How does  unplugging promote mental wellbeing? 

Perhaps you’re familiar with the term “Unconference”- conferences which have little to no predetermined topics and rely heavily on attendee participation. This is a form of unplugging that can be beneficial for business; realizing with COVID 19 video conferencing will persist to keep employees and managers connected. For example, as a leader, you can explore this idea by replacing a strategy review meeting (complete with that 50+ page powerpoint) with a more collaborative format. Break the meeting participants into teams and require them to answer basic questions about the new strategy.  (Assuming this isn’t the first time they’re hearing about it). In one fell swoop you’re increasing employee engagement and, having them discuss and write manually increases memory retention of the subject matter.

On a personal level, unplugging from work-related tasks has multiple benefits. One  benefit  is the ability to recharge which, in turn, can have positive impacts on quality of life, health, mental well-being and happiness. As a leader in today’s rapidly changing business environment where traditional industries are constantly being disrupted by startups, this unplugged time is essential. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been quoted saying, “You often do your best thinking when you’re off hiking in some mountain or something. You get a different perspective on things.” Aside from the ability to recharge and its associated benefits, unplugging can also improve sleep, and interpersonal communication

How to apply unplugging for your team?

How can you can apply this with employees and their workplace experience? Mandatory rules like requiring employees to unplug while on vacation or programs that restrict email communications after hours are not necessarily the best options. Rather, it’s important to foster a culture where people want to unplug because they feel supported; not because they hate their job. To do this requires leadership by example, (the real test of your commitment to unplugging), encouragement of work flexibility, and the support of other incentives for employees to unplug. Some examples include afterwork sports programs, team building events, or book clubs. 

Unplugging, whether the aim is short-term or to curb underlying motivations, has many tangible positive effects. It is a great  tool that can be used to promote the mental well-being of yourself and your employees. Embrace it and you’ll also be able to make positive changes to the employee experience with your team. 

If you want to find ways to change your company culture in ways which will improve growth and retention, I can help. Contact me here.