DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT: COMBAT WORKPLACE STRESS

Combat Workplace Stress - An uninhabited volcanic island surrounded by calm ocean

Back in the 1930s, economist John Keynes predicted a utopian future: a leisurely 15-hour work week brought about by unthinkable leaps in technology that would automate the workplace, leaving us with more time to follow our passions. While he may have been right about the tech revolution, it’s fair to say things haven’t quite gone to plan. The inventions that were supposed to liberate us certainly make workers more efficient, more productive and faster than ever – but the reality is that it has extended the working day well beyond the hours we are reasonably expected to work. We’re addicted to our screens.

A study called ‘Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect’, by Lehigh University’s Liuba Belkin, Virginia Tech’s William Becker and Colorado State University’s Samantha Conroy suggests that it’s not the after-hours work that’s stressing us out, but rather the expectation that we are available all hours of the day, never fully aware what kind of work requests will be asked of us while we’re slumped on the sofa in that t-shirt we got from a work netball match 10 years ago.

Picture the scene. It’s 9:48 pm, you’re winding down, a glass of wine in hand in front of the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale when you’re ripped from your favourite dystopian nightmare by the all-too-familiar notification chime from your phone. You reply to your manager’s ‘quick question’ because it only requires a couple of minutes of your time, but in doing so you’ve created a habit you’ll struggle to break out of, with that one-off late-night email reply soon becoming the norm; an unwanted expectation that blurs the once distinct lines between work and home. Before you realise it, you are subconsciously spending entire evenings primed for the arrival of another late night email, running over potential replies before its even landed in your inbox, your mind continuously called back to the office and unable to shut off.

In response, a couple of forward-thinking automotive giants have been quick to embrace the digital detox. Back in 2011, Volkswagen stopped their servers from sending or receiving emails to and from company-issued smartphones from 6:15 pm to 7:00 am. In 2014 Daimler introduced an ‘out of office’ auto-delete option that warned the sender that the person they were trying to contact would never see their message. While since 2017, French companies with more than 50 employees are obligated by law to guarantee their workers the ‘right to disconnect’ outside work hours.

Are you part of 55% of the population who spend the magic hour after the kids have been coaxed to bed checking work emails? Here’s the good news. It’s OK to switch off. Studies show this ‘always on’ culture is more damaging to ourselves and our teams than we like to admit. True creativity, innovation and productivity require time to distance yourself from your work, an opportunity to switch off, to recharge, and to approach your work from new perspectives the following day – good ideas occur when our minds are free to wander.

Tech overuse has been linked to a whole variety of physical and mental disorders, from tendonitis and ‘tech neck’ to anxiety, depression and insomnia. Being constantly connected, it would seem, is not good for us. At Black Tomato Agency we’re addressing tech overload by focusing on unique, back-to-basics experiences in far-flung corners of the globe. Where we’re going, we don’t need Wi-Fi.

Dreamt up by our team of in-house leisure travel experts, a Get Lost experience can be as extreme or as tame as you need it to be – from a private plane drop-off in an undisclosed location to a bespoke experience somewhere more familiar. What’s important is creating a real connection to people and places, whether you want to build your own shelter on a remote beach and spearfish for dinner in a Bear Grylls-esque survival challenge, pack your incentive programme with exhilarating activities that leave no room for your mind to wander, or simply turn off the router for a couple of hours during the morning business session so everyone can engage fully engage, we’ve got it covered. We can’t stop the unread email counter on your inbox from steadily ticking up, but we can guarantee you won’t care about it. At least for a couple of hours.

Join the screen-free revolution. Turn off, tune out and rediscover what makes you tick.