Digital detox this summer? You really should!

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“Always On”. It’s not a new concept for anyone who has work email on their smartphone (I got my first work-supplied BlackBerry way back in 2008), but with the increase in remote working and the associated demise of recognized office hours in the last 18 months, more employees than ever before are now arguably “always on”.

Never being away from work, either because of pressures to be available 24/7 or because the laptop is always just too darned close and easy to take a quick peek at, is leading to severe mental pressures for a lot of us. At the end of 2020, a study conducted by health benefits provider Aetna International suggested that as much as 74% of remote workers said that poor mental health had impacted their productivity.

In other words, we’re all ready for a break. This year, that’s going to be easier for some of us than others. In the US, domestic travel is back on the agenda and it’s comparatively easy to get away from home for your summer break. In other countries, travel is much restricted (and local weather less conducive to relaxing outdoors), so many of us will be enduring another year of the summer staycation.

For those flying away, it might be easy to leave the laptop at home, or at least reduce the digital footprint we carry with us. But even then, with more of us now accessing work email and applications on cell phones and tablet devices, have we become so accustomed to being always on that we’re going to find it harder than ever to switch off this summer?

In recent articles, we’ve extolled the virtues of the devices and services that SHI is deploying to help our customers be more agile, more responsive and support hybrid working practices. So, in this article we want to turn the tables and share some advice from SHI leaders on how they think you should and can disconnect during your summer vacation:

Communicate early

Denise Collison, Senior Vice President for Public Sector at SHI, suggests using a little forethought: “It’s a great idea to let key customers and stakeholders know ahead of time – as much as a month out – if you’re going to be unavailable for a period of time. That makes it easier to plan ahead and deal with any urgent issues before you head off for a relaxing walk along the beach.”

Out of office

Hal Jagger, Executive Vice President for Commercial and Enterprise at SHI, has a simple yet effective suggestion: “Remember to set your out of office. Not only does it let colleagues and customers know that you’re unlikely to see their email, it’s a ‘note to self’ to switch off and recharge those batteries, too! Use your out of office notice to nominate an alternate contact so that you can rest assured that urgent matters will still get dealt with in your absence.”

Switch off, that’s an order!

Melissa Graham is Senior Vice President of SHI’s Global business. Like most of us, she admits to not being very good at avoiding work during vacations. But she has strong advice for her team when taking time off: “My team works so hard every other day of the year that I really want them to NOT WORK! It’s important to disconnect and participate fully in their personal lives doing whatever it is they want to be doing. I also believe that staff being uncontactable is actually a good opportunity for others to step up and learn to deal with issues that will help them progress their own careers.”

Do not disturb

Kevin English is Director of Mobility Solutions at SHI. He has some softer, but perhaps more easily achieved steps to offer: “First, turn off your notifications on your devices. Yes, you might still check your email once or twice a day, but you won’t feel compelled to answer each and every mail that’s hitting your inbox. If you’re brave enough, and I encourage my staff to do this, delete or disable the apps you most often use for work from your device for the duration of the vacation. It’s easy enough to reactivate them when you get back home.”

Phone a friend

Ryan Sheehan, Senior Vice President of the Advanced Solutions Group at SHI, suggests: “Leave your phone in the hotel room safe when you head out to the beach or pool. You really aren’t likely to need it! If you’re worried about friends or family needing to contact you, give them your kids’ or partner’s numbers, as they’ll likely be using their devices for something far more fun than browsing work emails.”

Big Brother is not watching

Sam Mourad is CIO at SHI: “As head of IT at SHI, one of the options I have at my disposal is to suspend employees’ access to email and other apps while they’re on vacation, so even if they try to do work when they should be relaxing, they can’t! It’s not something we actively do, as we prefer to empower our employees to decide for themselves, but it’s technically feasible.”

The one constant theme from all the leaders at SHI we talked to – and I expect yours would echo this – is that they want their staff to do whatever’s necessary to come back to work fully refreshed and ready to engage. They not only give their staff full permission to disengage, they insist on it. Your key takeway: do not feel guilty switching the laptop and cell phone off!

We wish all our customers that are lucky enough to be taking a summer vacation this year a most relaxing – and disconnected – experience. We look forward to seeing you back refreshed and ready to rock in Fall!

If you’re looking to digitally detox this summer vacation, here are a few articles we found interesting: