The obsessive, addictive nature of technology is a topic of much discussion in the world these days, focusing mostly on the need of people to be constantly checking their mobile devices for news, text messages and other forms of social media contact. Well, a similar problem has plagued organizations for years, and I’m not referring to employees who are obsessively connected to their smartphones. Instead, I’m thinking about the prevalence of people being glued to their laptops.
By the looks of most workplaces today, you’d think that the majority of employees in the world were copy-editors for a newspaper. The average worker is almost constantly staring at his or her screen, most likely shifting back and forth from e-mail to the internet to a word-processing or presentation application. Aside from the distraction of constant multi-tasking, this hurts organizations because it keeps people isolated.
Sometimes I long for the days when frequent power outages forced people to light a candle and sit around talking or doing something interactive. But don’t mistake my nostalgia for something touchy-feely. My concern is more about the distinct lack of interactive problem-solving and brainstorming that I see in so many workplaces. This is a problem because the best ideas don’t come about during a scheduled meeting, but rather from incidental contact between like-minded human beings who afford themselves the luxury of work-related, unstructured conversation.
Maybe companies should start having regular technology fasts, periods during which employees would be prohibited from using their laptops—or smartphones for that matter—but still required to work. I am utterly convinced that productivity, innovation and team cohesiveness would improve, not to mention job satisfaction.