In Leadership Competencies

Eating. Sleeping. Screens. These three words can easily describe the average day of our tech obsessed youth- or even the busy business professional. What may surprise you is that these 3 words apply to a far wider segment of the American public. A 2016 report by Common Sense Media found that the average parent spends upwards of 7 hours per day with personal screen media and only a small portion of that time is dedicated to work screen media. I’d like to dive into the second subject within this month’s theme about the 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. 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, “…to unplug is to give up craving, to live mindfully…”.  Regardless of interpretation, there are real benefits to unplugging. These are benefits that can be reaped by your business and have positive effects on your own and your employees’ experience and mental well-being.

How does unplugging promote mental well-being?

How can unplugging benefit your business? 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. For example, as a leader, you can explore this idea by replacing a strategy review meeting (complete with that 50+ page power point) 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. Also, 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. This can have positive impacts on quality of life, health, mental well-being and happiness. As a leader in today’s rapidly changing business environment, 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, unplugging can also improve sleep, and interpersonal communication.

How to apply unplugging for your team?

You can apply an unplugging initiative with your employees to improve their workplace experience. Mandatory rules like requiring employees to unplug while on vacation or programs that restrict email communications after hours are not the best options. Instead, it’s important to foster a culture where people want to unplug because they feel supported by you. (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. Incentives could include after work sports programs, team building events, or book clubs.

As you have read, unplugging has many tangible positive effects for you and your team. It is a great tool you can  use to promote the mental well-being for yourself and your employees. Embrace it and you’ll also make positive changes for the employee experience for your team.

If you want to find ways to improve your company culture to improve growth and productivity, I can help. Contact me here.

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