By Kevin-James Fenech
We have undoubtedly witnessed a dramatic rise in the use of digital devices by people both at work and in their personal lives, and this uncanny dependency has led to a global digital addiction. I would argue that this addiction is now adversely affecting how people work.
People today, apparently, suffer from: FOMO (fear of missing out), FOBO (fear of being offline) and nomo-phobia (fear of being out of mobile contact). Sarcasm apart, and even I am struggling to accept that this is a new reality for the workplace, the more I think about it the more I can place people I come across in my consultancy work to these variations of digital anxiety.
Research reveals that people in general, regardless of age, tend to ‘check’ their smart phone every 15 minutes or less and become anxious if they aren’t allowed to do so, and this is precisely the point I am zooming in on with this article.
How we work and live our lives has dramatically changed because of technological advances and the infiltration of digital devices into our ‘ordinary lives’. Desk diaries have been replaced with the calendars found on smart phones; physical servers replaced with cloud based servers; PCs replaced with lap tops; real business contacts with LinkedIn contacts; and the ominous list goes on. In effect, we hold our office on our smart phone but this technological advancement brings with it a dependency, an addiction.
How many people do you know that sleep with their smart phone in the bedroom or, even worse, at their bedside table? Or do you feel anxious and uncomfortable if you accidentally forget your phone? Do you read emails, tweet, ‘Like a page’ or ‘Share a page’, watch a short video clip on Vimeo, ‘What’s Up’ your friends, read bite size news items, text your partner, etc, whilst walking to your car or going to a meeting? Do you live your life by digital proxy? If the answer is yes to most of these questions, you can safely say that you are suffering from ‘digital addiction’.
Personally, I cherish the moment when I (accidentally on purpose) leave my phone on silent mode or leave it on my desk whilst I attend a meeting with real people in the boardroom. I literally feel liberated and free. Yet for people of a different mindset this is a moment of anxiety: they need to be connected and at one with their digital devices all the time.
My point is that this recent pattern of human behaviour affects the work place. I think people do not concentrate or focus as well as they could or should because of this digital addiction / distraction. I say exploit technology to your advantage but don’t let it control your work or life.
Allow me to give you an example: how many of you stopped reading this article / blog because of a digital distraction? Be honest. I am willing to bet that it is at least one out of every two of you.
I believe that our much beloved digital devices and business technology, are custom-built to destroy individual focus, especially at work. I honestly cannot perform my work and add value to my clients if I am unable to focus. Therefore, anything that distracts me or even interrupts my thoughts and one-to-one conversations with clients is undermining the value I can offer them. Granted, a smart phone empowers us to do a lot of things which are good for business but if we are not careful we are allowing bad habits to creep up on us and undermine the quality of our work.
Solution: Manage and control the situation. Be in charge. Be strong. Life and work thrived before and they will do the same for those 90 minutes you focus on that important memo / report or meeting with a top customer.
Let’s not forget why we are managers or leaders at work: we are there to add value to the business and we add value by being able to focus and think. We cannot achieve this level of performance at work if we are constantly distracted. When I see professional athletes (swimmers, footballers, runners, etc) train I never see them checking their phone every 15 minutes; I see them focusing on their job at hand which is to become the best professional athlete. As a professional manager you should do the same.
Digital addiction is everywhere. Be vigilant and have the courage to ‘disconnect’. Your business will thank you for it.