Friday, February 17, 2012

Companies find that regular down time from internet increases productivity

Some employers, however, are now attempting to flip the “off” switch. Companies from Atos, the French information technology services giant, to Deutsche Telekom to Google have recently adopted measures that force workers toward a better work-life balance, with scheduled breaks from the Internet and constant connectivity. Just last month, Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest automaker, pledged to deactivate emails on German staff BlackBerries during non-office hours. In a bid to combat employee burnout, staff at Volkswagen will be limited to only receiving emails on their devices from half an hour before they start work until half an hour after they leave for the day, and will be in blackout mode the rest of the time.

“Employers are recognizing that it is helpful for employees to have boundaries,” says Stewart Friedman, a Wharton practice professor of management. “The challenges of distraction in the digital world are massive…. The big issue is attention. In this digital age — which has really only just begun — we are starting the process of learning how to create useful boundaries that allow us to pay attention to the things that matter, when they matter.”

These new policies signal that while corporations care about the psychological well-being of their workers, they are not totally altruistic. Evidence suggests that regular downtime leads to greater productivity. And although our addiction to digital devices is powerful — there is a reason, after all, that the BlackBerry is known as a “crackberry” — and we need some help breaking bad habits, it is not completely the responsibility of employers.

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