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July 16, 2015 / Molly Moseley

Help your tech-addicted employees unplug with these 4 tips

Kids think the darndest things, and sometimes a child’s unique perspective creates an “Oh, wow!” moment. That happened to me recently when I discovered that my 4-year-old daughter didn’t realize the foundational purpose of a cell phone is to make calls. She thought mobile phones were designed to surf the Web, send text messages and pictures, and play games. That’s pretty telling, isn’t it?

Given that fresh perspective, maybe we shouldn’t even call them “phones” anymore. Maybe we should start referring to those devices we’re all so attached to as “mini-computers.” And make no mistake, many of us—including a lot of your employees—are addicted to our smartphones. There’s now even a disorder called technology addiction. Although it’s not yet recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, with health media from Healthline and WebMD to the Huffington Post reporting on the growing trend of tech addiction, you have to think healthcare professionals are aware of the issue.

In fact, one Huffington Post article made a compelling case for the many different ways overuse of technology can affect our bodies and minds. The well-researched article pointed out that there was evidence to link excessive tech to everything from acne and back pain, to feelings of loneliness and withdrawal.

Addiction of any kind is damaging to an employee’s mental health, so there’s definitely value for employers in encouraging their workers to unplug for a while, and reduce their dependence on their mobile devices. If you’re looking to help your employees reduce their tech dependence, here are some ideas that could help:

1. Lead by example. Don’t send an email or text when you could just as easily stroll into someone’s office or cubicle to communicate. Face-to-face interaction fosters relationships and better relationships make for a more efficient team. Encourage employees to take the extra moment or two to interact personally with each other, especially if they work in the same office.

2. Ban smartphones from meetings. There’s a meme running around social media about having just spent an hour in a meeting that could have been an email. But sometimes in-person meetings are more beneficial, being the most efficient way to get something done. When you meet, keeping smartphones out of the room can reduce distractions and help make your meeting run more smoothly.

3. Respect off-time. Technology has made it far too easy to encroach on someone’s personal time. Institute a company policy that emailing, texting or otherwise contacting someone during off hours or vacation time is strictly reserved for emergencies. So it’s okay to text Joe after hours that tomorrow morning’s 9 a.m. meeting has been moved up to 8 a.m., but not to remind him about a report that’s not due until the end of the week. Use a gut check, can this wait until tomorrow? If so, send it then.

4. Rethink notification settings. This one comes from Gizmodo’s Field Guide. Blogger David Nield makes the case that you (and your employees) don’t need to know absolutely everything that’s happening on social media (Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp) the instant it happens. In my opinion, that’s doubly true during work hours, when employees should be focusing on work-related information instead of eyeballing photos of the steak lunch their college buddy is currently enjoying at a big-name Manhattan restaurant. Nield recommends disabling push notifications of social media “news” and updates that you really don’t need.

Technology is a great enabler, but it isn’t necessary or even useful in every workplace situation, setting and moment. Encourage employees to really think about how they use technology in the office, and to look for ways to streamline how and when they use it.

Bonus, speaking of funny “Oh wow” moments about kids and technology check out this post from Bored Panda: 15+ Funny Tweets Prove That Kids Today Have No Clue About Old Technology … then get back to work!