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Smartphones and computers have made their way into almost every moment of our lives. From checking emails, researching for work, scrolling through Instagram and playing games, our average screen time only continues to expand.

Microsoft found that Americans spend seven hours a day on computers—six of which are spent at work. They also found that 85 percent of employees experienced discomfort on a daily basis due to screen time—pain in the neck, shoulders, wrists, upper back and hands. The always-on culture could be hurting your business, too. A study in the Academy of Management Journal titled "Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect" found that the expectation to check email after work negatively impacts employees' well-being, which can weaken job performance.

So how should employers approach this "always-on" environment? We talked with Sonja Rasula, founder of CAMP, an adult summer camp where no electronic devices are allowed, about why digital detoxing is necessary for improving employee engagement and productivity. 

Why did you start a digital detox camp?

At CAMP, guests attend seminars from thought leaders, participate in workshops, go horseback riding and do yoga—all without their devices. It helps people actually understand that their version of self-importance is kind of a silly idea. A lot of us, myself included, are connected 24-7 and we have this feeling that everything should be responded to immediately. If I'm not on Instagram or social media, what am I doing? It's a release from that. It truly allows people to just give themselves time to think.

If we can force people to actually interact with each other and be very present in this beautiful outdoor environment, they will get much more from the experience.

"A lot of us, myself included, are connected 24-7 and we have this feeling that everything should be responded to immediately."

How could a detox increase productivity at work?

The fact that everyone tends to have their phones on their desks at work means they can quickly look over at their device and instantly be disconnected from the task at hand. If they were brainstorming or thinking creatively, all of that instantly goes out the door and their attention is on whether or not they should check Instagram.

If we concentrated on one task, and cut out the distractions, it would take half the time to complete.

What can companies do to encourage employees to unplug and be more present?

Have walking meetings! That gets you away from the screen and gets your blood flowing. Or make your meetings phone-free, as in no phones in the room. These tactics ensure everyone is present 100 percent of the time—and if you're in the room waiting to start, you are actually socializing instead of looking down at your phones in silence. I also think meetings should be laptop and tablet free. Those are just as distracting and can be easy ways for people to disengage with the rest of the room.

"If we concentrated on one task, and cut out the distractions, it would take half the time to complete."

If a task does not need to be done online, change your environment and go outside or work from a communal space in the office. And yes, that also means use a pen and pad of paper. [You can also] set aside time at company retreats for people to check their phones and respond to email, so that all other time is device-free.

How often do you recommend people disconnect?

Everyone should try to do it daily. It's getting to the point that people are digitally connected almost 24 hours a day. It's becoming a societal norm to have your phone by your bed. That's introduced a whole can of worms. Once or twice a day you should set your phone in a space in your house that is not accessible and try to let go and not think about it. Go outdoors and instead of taking your phone to take photos to post, be in that moment and enjoy it.

Photos: CAMP

Kylie Ora Lobell View all

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