Industry Insights

24 Hours Unplugged


When was the last time you unplugged for 24 hours?

If you spend every work day in front of a PC for 8 to 10 hours, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to turn off all your electronic devices for an entire day without planning to do so in advance.

According to The Unconnected, a non-profit organization working to bridge the digital divide, there are over 3 billion people that don’t have internet access. What is life like for these people without the daily cell phone connectivity that we take for granted? That’s the question we were challenged to answer here at SmartSearch this month.

Our HR Department uses an App called Refresh across the HUDDL3 Group family of companies to promote internal health & wellness programs, benefits updates, communication, and camaraderie. Each month, employees are given a challenge and opportunity to earn points and perks. June’s #unconnect24 challenge was to turn off your phone and disconnect from the internet for 24 hours and share our experiences.

I was taking vacation time this month and thought that would be the perfect time to unplug. That turned out to be impossible.

For the 10 days, I was away from work, between Googling, Yelping, GPS’ing, texting, and sharing photos on Instagram and Facebook, my phone screen time jumped from an average of fewer than 2 hours to over 4 hours per day. It was a bit of a wake-up call to realize how much I relied on being connected in my personal life.

On the day I returned home, I decided this would be the time for a digital detox and disconnect from the internet. I confess one thing that made it easier was so much jet lag that I slept for the first 10 hours of the prescribed 24.

In the morning, it was not difficult to resist the temptation to turn on the phone or spend any time in front of the PC or TV screen.

Instead, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with my husband, listening to the music of our small town neighborhood’s symphony of lawnmowers. I unpacked my luggage and got started on Rocky Mountain high piles of laundry, snail-mail, and the local newspaper.

I had been in a news vacuum for 2 weeks, so as I poured through the newspaper and ignored my online news sources, I thought about those 3 billion unplugged people that don’t get the benefit of worldwide access to a vast array of news outlets and social channels.

I completed my Summer Vacation Journal which is a combination of diary, scrapbook, and sketches that chronicle my adventures.

Then I drafted this blog post using an old-fashioned legal pad and pen to write down what it feels like to go an entire day with no phone, internet, video games, TV, or use any electronic device, including my FitBit to track exercise or Kindle to finish the book I was reading on the plane. I felt disconnected yet liberated at the same time.

I also felt secure in the knowledge that I could enjoy this peaceful downtime in the domestic bliss and comforts of my home, and not have to return to my remote-work routine until next Monday. I felt reassured that I could, and would, reconnect to the internet and social media in just a few hours. I realized THIS is the luxury not shared by those 3 billion unconnected souls.

What can we learn from the unconnected people that would help bring more awareness and social consciousness, more meaning and mindfulness to our work, and real-life human connections?

Perhaps unplugging for 24 hours every month is one way to find that elusive work-life balance and be more present in the real world of here and now.

 

For more information about how The Unconnected is working to increase internet access for vulnerable communities, students, refugees, and others without equal access check out this The Future Of Teamwork podcast.

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