12 days of Christmas tips: Try the all-powerful digital detox
29 December 2017 -
Day Five: We’re all guilty of being distracted by our mobile phones, but can turning off your mobile phone at work really make you a better manager?
Mobile phones are taking over every aspect of our lives, distracting us from the things that really matter in our personal lives and making us less productive at work. You might think that having all the information you could possibly need at your fingertips is a benefit at work, but it is our inability to use mobiles selectively that is detrimentally impacting performance.
Employers have long been worried about the excessive use of smartphones by their staff during the working day, but in many cases it is the management, unchecked by workplace regulations, who are guilty of being distracted by their phones.
Clearly, there is a balance to be reached, but how will turning your phone off make you a better manager?
1. Focusing individual thought and productivity
A recent CareerBuilder survey found that almost one in five employers (19%) think workers are productive for less than five hours a day. When looking at the cause of this inactivity, more than half of employers (55%) say workers’ mobile phones are to blame.
It takes the average person about four minutes to recover from a workplace interruption, and even then, it can be difficult to pick up from exactly where they left off. For managers, this level of distraction from the task at hand, even when the phone is being used for work purposes, will have a considerable impact on their productivity, and affect their ability to concentrate on the task at hand.
2. Sending the right message to your team
It should go without saying that while at work, managers, along with every member of staff, should refrain from the excessive personal use of mobile phones. Personal calls, instant messaging, text messaging and tweeting during the working day all interfere with productivity and distracts others. As a manager, you must set an example and not expect employees to adhere to rules you clearly flout.
As well as setting an example, it is also important to show employees that as well as being present in the workplace physically, it also has your undivided attention. Given how distracting modern workplaces are already, with constant email pings, office instant messaging, meetings and phone calls, managers can’t afford to waste away any more of their time on personal smartphones.
3. Making company meetings more dynamic
Research has shown that our increasing reliance on our smartphones and other devices is causing our ‘memory muscles’ to shrink, and this is leading to a kind of digital amnesia. The reliance on smartphones is creeping into every aspect of our lives. By constantly referring to smartphones for everything from diaries to phone numbers, we are losing much of the dynamism and efficiency from the working day.
One area where this is keenly felt is company meetings. Meetings are a notoriously time-sapping and inefficient exercise, and they are made worse by constantly having to refer to smartphones and laptops for the information we need.
Thankfully, there is an extremely simple range of tools we can use to get our memories back in shape. Being able to instantly recall important details allows managers to hold meetings without countless interruptions, helping to make company meetings dynamic and more efficient.
Business psychologist Anni Townend agrees, saying “It might seem to go against instincts, but interruption is a key part of successful meetings. Interrupting forces people to stop and think. Introducing a digital detox to a team meeting is a great way of interrupting people if they typically are checking their phones, or are on their laptops or iPads during meetings.
“It helps people be more present and present to each other, and will stimulate a more focused discussion (providing the team leaders signals this intention).”
Distraction is a cost
In business, distraction is a cost. We’re constantly facing a barrage of unavoidable distractions, so as a manager, it’s essential to limit those you can control. Being able to concentrate on what you are doing, and who you are with, are key traits of an effective manager, which makes turning your phone off when necessary one of the most important steps you can take.
Irma Hunkeler is the head of content at BlueGlass
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