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Digital Detox is good for business

Aug 13, 2018

I have recently returned from a 3 week break. We drove from Dublin to the French Mediterranean coast with a little help from Irish Ferries. Most of our holidays are camping holidays. When I say camping, I mean actual camping with tent pegs and ground sheets and guys and all that jazz.

Like all types of holidays, it has its pros and cons. One of the major pros, in my opinion, is the lack of electricity. We did cheat a little on the Mediterranean, this year, and rent a fridge. This meant we had electricity. However I stuck to my guns, allowing my phone to run down, only charging it in the car when directions and audio books were needed. Yep I took time out for a digital detox.

I read about 8 books, printed on paper. I sat on the beach, outside cafes, on canal banks, in forests, under canvas, beside lakes, in castles and cathedrals and looked, really looked, to imprint images on my mind’s eye, to store visions up for the dark winter days. I didn’t track my movements (there was little enough of it to be honest!) I didn’t root through bags worrying where my phone was. I didn’t update my social feeds. I didn’t give a hoot what time it was. I certainly did not check my emails. I didn’t listen to a single podcast or read a single blogpost. I didn’t even look up a knitting pattern (I had printed one out before I left.)

I caught up on sleep. I enjoyed the feel of the sun, sand and water on my skin. I untethered.

I had a very busy period before I departed. I had to fit two months work into one and a quarter months. While others might bring their laptop on holidays and fit a few hours into early mornings here and there I don’t have that option. I’m glad. I took off on my holidays with a sense of achievement, proud that I had met my clients’ deadlines and would get a great break.

I have long believed that a decent break from the quotidien is essential to our mental health. Many European states agree with statutory leave enshrined in law and as reported in The Irish Times “Employees are also entitled to an unbroken period of two weeks’ holidays after eight months’ work.”

So why is digital detox good for business?

Science says so.

According to research a group of hikers who left their devices behind on a four day excursion scored 50% better on creativity and problem solving tests after their break.
To me this is compelling evidence although the research is on a small group, of a particular mindset, in particular conditions. However, a shift in focus no matter your normal state of mind will surely allow you to see a problem from a different angle. That goes for obstacles and issues in your work too.

Stop poking the bear

One thing about running a small business is that we can experience extreme tunnel vision. Some might call it laser focus, attention to detail or determination. These are all essential traits when you are starting your own business or running your own business.

Running a digital marketing business, I know better than most how this can affect my work. I am constantly reading articles, watching videos and listening to podcasts about online marketing and discussing same, online and off, with other digital marketing geeks like me. A kind of groupthink occurs, where you forget that not everyone eats, sleeps and drinks technology. Removing the technology reminds me how most (normal, non-geek!) people operate.

They don’t spend their waking hours on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and in the backend of websites, testing new apps and social media strategies. They don’t stare at numbers in reports, analysing which content has the best ROI.

Chances are they casually check their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram once an hour. Maybe once a day. Maybe just even once a week. I came across so many instances of companies, at home and abroad, who seemed to have missed the tech revolution entirely and who are still using paper to manage their businesses. My heart swells upon this realisation: it means there is still work for OnlineHub to do!

It reminds me that not everyone works in a digital marketing agency like OnlineHub and that their online marketing strategy is just one element of their overall business strategy.

Similarly, no matter what sector you are in, taking your nose from the grindstone and turning off that email, taking a time out from Twitter, easing off Instagram, and letting up on Facebook will open your mind. You won’t be comparing your product or service to your competitors’, you won’t be reading about how a company in Australia are offering the same as you, you won’t be obsessing over every single open, like and share. Of course, that’s not to say that you can’t keep the home fires burning. OnlineHub has been keeping things ticking over for clients online while they take a well earned break of their own. Knowing your product or service is thriving online in the hands of an agency like OnlineHub means that you can really switch off during your leave.

Culture Club

However, the reality is that as entrepreneurs we rarely switch off entirely. We often refer to our companies as “our babies” and who would forget their baby, even their grown-up offspring?! If you are lucky enough to get away abroad, it’s only natural that your experience of another culture is going to be affected by your life experience. It is going to be coloured by the most important aspects of your day-to-day life. You will see it through a certain lens.

During our summer holiday we travelled all over France, taking our time and stopping in all sorts of regional towns along the way for coffee, lunch, ice cream, any excuse: sure we were on our holidays! One of my clients is marketing a luxury product. Many of these towns seemed prosperous and chi-chi and I got to thinking about targeting Facebook advertising, using the customer persona we had developed but also on these wealthy, regional towns that, being honest, I was only vaguely aware existed previously. There is a lot to be said for the road less travelled! For me and my client, it opened up whole new avenues of opportunity and potential new markets. I’ll let you know how it pans out!

Legislation is siding with digital detox

On January 1st 2017 France introduced a law allowing employees to ignore email outside work hours.In the Irish Times in July 2018 a case was detailed where the Labour Court awarded a junior staff member an award of €7,500 because of emails sent and received outside working hours.  While the latter related to ”repeated breaches of the Working Time Act” by the employer rather than issues relating specifically to digital, there is some research that supports the thesis that frequent email checking increases stress levels.

In defence of digital

All that said there are certain technologies that even I would not forego while travelling. Google maps and reviews ensured we got where we wanted, found somewhere to park and ate very well on arrival. Audio books and the excellent BorrowBox app from Bolinda Digital and Dublin City Libraries allowed us to travel further by keeping all family members entertained. We listened to about half of the Little House on the Prairie series which really made us extremely grateful for all the mod cons life in the twenty first century affords us!

What about you? Were you able to bury your device at the bottom of the suitcase while on a break? Has it changed your relationship with technology? With all the upsets in technology in 2018 was the opportunity you needed to re-evaluate your reliance on it? Your comments are, as ever, welcome below!

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