Digital Detox: 3 Ways To Combat Screen Addiction In Your Agency

For many of us, our working life consists of looking at various types of screens. (As it happens, most of our free time does too, but that’s outside the scope of this article.)

There’s no avoiding it: digital technology is at the forefront of most industries, and is simply a necessity for the majority of companies to operate in 2020. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, though. Quite the opposite. It’s actually pretty damn convenient. You can communicate far and wide in an instant; look up what you want, when you want; and reach a whole new customer base at the flip of a switch. The only issue is, it’s also pretty damn addictive.

Screen addiction can be a pretty serious issue in a lot of companies. And, as Ewan McGregor found out the hard way in Trainspotting, the only cure for addiction is a detox. In this case: a digital detox.

What Is Screen Addiction?

Before we look at the solution, let’s define the problem. Fortunately, screen addiction is not as serious as heroin addiction, so you can breathe a sigh of relief there. Chances are you won’t find yourself pelting through a Scotland street to the tune of “Lust for Life” as part of your recovery (unless you’re after a very specific form of recovery).

Put simply, screen addiction is an obsession with screens of any kind. Chances are everyone in your company owns a smartphone and a computer. They’re probably going to do most of their work via those devices. When people become so compulsive in their screen use that it starts to affect their productivity, social/professional relationships, physical health, and emotional wellbeing, then it can be classed as an addiction. Although there is no clinical criteria for screen addiction, the principles remain the same.

It sounds like a flippant condition, but the negative effects of screen addiction can be significant. First of all, the physical symptoms can include headaches, migraine, neck strain, dry eyes, and muscle cramps. Long-term effects potentially manifest as bad posture and back problems. Mentally, things are even grimmer. Screen addiction can literally restructure your brain, affecting areas like decision-making, executive attention, emotional processing, and cognitive control. This is how screen addiction can affect productivity – which is bad news for your agency in general, but also pretty bad news for your employees personally.

What Is a Digital Detox?

The answer to beating screen addiction is a digital detox. When you say the word “detox”, you might imagine recovering addicts going cold turkey, shivering on single mattresses – we have Ewan and the gang to thank for that one. Fortunately, screen detox is a lot less physically taxing. Mentally, however… It depends how committed you are. But don’t worry! You can start small. The phrase “digital detox” simply refers to consciously limiting your screen usage as much as possible. It does not mean you throw all your devices in the nearest river and take off towards a yoga enclave in the mountains.

Obviously, many people need screens to do their job. I’m writing this on a screen right now. In those cases, a digital detox might mean picking something you fear you overuse (Instagram, for example) and limiting your exposure to it for a period of time. Basically, you can customize a detox to address the hotspot problem areas, while not totally torpedoing your lifestyle.

If you’re concerned about the problem in your agency or company, there are also a few steps you can take to help encourage a communal digital detox.

1. Address the Issue with Your Team

Often, many people don’t know how far gone they are into an addiction until it’s highlighted to them. When you’re working with a group of people, obviously there are going to be different levels of issues; Gareth might hate smartphones and use his computer solely for work pursuits, while Mary might be so invested in her phone that she should start carrying it in a face harness to save the strain on her arms. It can be a good idea to have a team chat about screen addiction, to make your employees aware of it and the dangers surrounding it. Then they’ll know what to look out for. Unless it’s a particularly severe case, you can’t dictate how often and for how long your employees look at screens. But you can highlight the issue and flag the potential dangers around it.

2. Encourage Face-to-Face Meetings (When and Where Appropriate)

Sometimes it’s handy to just reach for the email or laptop and fire a quick question to a colleague. But it’s certainly not the perfect form of communication. Face-to-face meetings don’t need to happen for every interaction; that would slow your productivity down to a crawl. But you can facilitate an atmosphere of human contact in your office by encouraging in-person meetings when and where they’re applicable. These are particularly beneficial if you run or work for a creative agency. When projects are in their infancy, face-to-face meetings can often result in the best ideas, while combating screen usage at the same time.

3. Install Apps That Monitor Usage

There are plenty of apps that help users monitor screen time. These range from personal to company-wide, and they can be a real benefit in combating screen addiction. One of the hallmarks of screen addiction is not realizing how long we spend gazing into said screen. Agency resource management tools like Productive can help you manage and track that length of time, so you can see how much of your day is being taken up by screens.

What Productive app does is helping your agency to be more efficient. Productive tools include insights feature, which can show you how long you’re spending on a particular project and where time is being lost.

In addition, it will help you measure the efficiency spikes when your detoxed employees come to a project with fresh minds, clear heads, and a renewed Lust for (work) Life.

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Bojan Rendulic

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