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Earlier this year, the World Health Organization issued a new set of guidelines urging parents to limit screen time for kids under the age of five. According to the health agency, reduced time in front of iPads, smartphones, and other electronic devices—combined with more exercise and better sleeping habits—results in healthier adults.
It got me thinking about the television and computer limits I set for my own kids when they were growing up and how as they got older—and smartphones became omnipresent in all of our lives—I had to start thinking about my own plugged-in habits. Not only was I trying to set a good example for my daughters, but also I needed to consider my own health, well-being, and productivity.
According to a recent Nielsen report, American adults spend nearly half of their day looking at screens. As an employer, it’s tough to face the reality that much of that screen time inevitably occurs at work. While you can’t control employees’ evening or weekend Netflix binges, you can help contribute to healthier habits as they relate to their work. Here are a few things to consider:
Lead by example. If I’m sitting at the dinner table over the holidays or lounging on a beach chair during a family trip and I whip out my cell phone, you can bet that my daughters will take notice and do the same. Similarly, as a leader, the first step in helping employees unplug more frequently is to disconnect from electronics yourself. Start by keeping devices out of sight at in-person meetings. Unless its an emergency, avoid sending and responding to emails, instant messages, and texts outside of normal working hours. Taking these steps won’t guarantee that employees will follow your lead, but doing the opposite—being glued to your devices at all times—will encourage employees to do the same.
Set boundaries. The next step in your quest to help employees limit their screen time is to create some ground rules. A great place to start? In-person meetings. We’ve all been there: Several people are sitting around a table. The voice of the person leading the meeting is met with the faint tapping of fingers on a keyboard. Not only is it distracting for the group, but also the team member that is skimming emails, responding to Slack messages, or reading text messages during the meeting isn’t fully retaining what’s being said. Ask employees to keep phones and laptops closed during meetings or better yet, ask them to come to meetings without them. If employees are concerned about taking notes, bring a stack of notebooks and pens.
Help employees take breaks. While the ideal frequency and length of work breaks tends to vary depending on which study or article you read, we can all agree that physically getting away from screens is important. One way that leaders can encourage breaks is by creating spaces where employees can get away. Think: An open space for yoga and meditation, a game room with a ping pong table, or—if your company is full of musicians like mine—a jam room full of instruments (and headphones!) At the very least, encourage employees to take lunch away from their desks and get outside if/when they can.
Depending on the size and composition of your team, you may have to get creative. For example, teams with remote workers can’t eliminate computers from meetings completely, but they can encourage those workers to close their browsers or put messaging platforms on “do not disturb” during meetings. Regardless of the exact steps you take, encouraging employees to limit screen time can only lead to happier employees—and your efforts will undoubtedly be met with less resistance than that of a five-year-old getting their iPad taken away.
June 5, 2019 at 12:39PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs