Facing Reality – Encouraging Digital Detox

Richard Branson, one of Britain?s high profile billionaires, is known for his ‘Never say never’ attitude and innovative thinking. In his capacity as the founder of Virgin, the organization has reached new heights. Owing to a recent initiative taken by Josh Bayliss, the CEO of Virgin Management, the employees are now banned from accessing their emails for two hours every Wednesday. To dissuade employees from interacting via screens, brainstorming sessions and face-to-face conversations are being encouraged at the company. This move comes from the realization that ?working collaboratively but never meeting face to face wasn?t best for teamwork and morale?, Mashable reports.

In our technologically pumped world, this kind of digital detox is essential.

We have started living our lives on-line. Whether it is something as simple as buying a new packet of chips to something more intrinsic like celebrating a happy occasion, technology has engulfed us. The quality of work culture in an organization is directly proportional to the outcome levels. Thus, team work becomes crucial. However, due to lack of real-life conversations, team work is reduced to a mere farce? You might be sending over 20 emails a day to your co-worker on a project you are collaborating but hesitate to share a 3-minute conversation while waiting in the lunch line. We are getting accustomed to using screens as shields; and without these screens as our shields, we experience a sense of discomfort. This substitution has a negative impact on interpersonal relationships.

Firstly, when you are conversing with someone on-line, you hold the conversation as long as you stay on-line. This allows one to escape ?difficult? conversations at the click of a button. A prolonged period of time spent in the virtual world drains the real world off meaningful conversation. The ability to listen to the other person is affected as an escapist attitude develops.

Secondly, emails/chats cannot convey the intended tone, expression and emotions of the other person ? there is only so much a laughing emoticon can convey. Humans connect through their ability to feel things and to feel for things. This sense of association encourages people to establish interpersonal relationships with others. The age of technology makes this link very feeble. In the work place, for instance, team work is extremely crucial for the growth of the organization. However, weaker inter personal relationships are formed due to repeated indulgence in restricted conversations. “We want people to live a good work-life balance and our mission is to create a happy workforce,? Lisa Thomas, Virgin’s global head of brand, told Mashable ahead of the Virgin Disruptors panel in London. Healthy inter personal relationships amongst co-workers are vital in order to achieve this goal.

Thirdly, emails exhibit a sense of it being a dialogue rather than it being a discussion. More vibrant ideas, however, emerge in case of discussions. as they enable bidirectional conversations that go beyond being a one-way street. Such discussions would result in brainstorming sessions, which are essential for the growth of any organization.

Due to the excessive bombardment of technology in every sphere of our lives, we end up indulging ourselves much more than we realize. This makes it difficult to break away even when one makes conscious efforts to do so. For instance, a break from the monotony of browsing through social media might be watching TV. The alternatives such as taking out time for family members, traveling, etc. are being forgotten, thereby drawing people away from human interaction.

A positive, energetic and happy atmosphere leads to increase in creativity and desire to work harder. The employer as well as the employee benefit from this.  The same reflects in Virgin?s performance. Bayliss’s initiative will improve employee?s life and the organisation’s work culture by simply changing the way employees utilize their time. Thus, such initiatives must be made a bench mark for all organizations to follow.  Branson’s philosophy has always been to enjoy work; something every organisation should learn from lest human interaction be reduced to mere clicks.

– Contributed by Tanisha and Edited by Pragya – Students of Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Journalism

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