Go Light: 7 Ways to Start Inspiring & Stop Exhausting Your People
A few days ago, I wrote about the destructive impact of social media, data breach and technology overwhelm. Read that post here.
I am a fan of technology and digital media. There is a reason digital platforms are so popular. Sure, we all like the convenience. More importantly, human beings are hard-wired to connect with one another – a sense of community is a key need that motivates us and our ability to thrive.
Still, some companies seeing and/or sensing the growing and damaging trend of technology overwhelm, misuse of digital and concerns around data breach, have responded accordingly:
1. Samsung introduced what has been referred to as a “dumb phone” – a phone that shares similar specs and design to a smart phone, but doesn’t connect to the Internet or 3rd-party apps.
2. Similarly, a Brooklyn-based company developed the “The Light Phone,” a credit card sized phone, designed to be used as little as possible on the premise that people should be valued over technology. Due to launch in the spring, the company surpassed its funding goal within days of the announcement.
In my work as a communication and change consultant, I’ve seen this trend hit a fever pitch as of late. After interviewing 105 employees – from many different organizations — 82 reported that they did not feel they were thriving. In fact, many of them reported “feeling overwhelmed,” due to technology, information and work overload.
While creating energized environments, great cultures and engaging employees requires an over-arching strategy that meets employees’ needs, it is clear there is also a need for some quick ideas that immediately help “stop the bleeding,” if you will.
Seven “Go Light” Ideas to Consider:
1. 3-Check Tech: Employees check email on average 15 times a day. Now, with texts, email, phones and digital apps all vying for our attention, Americans reported checking their phones on average 46 times a day, and up to 70 times a day for younger generations. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found checking email 3 times a day significantly reduces stress and increases well-being. A “3-check tech” rule also helps control the communication, time, allows for a thoughtful response, or the consideration of phone call – an often better way to communicate.
2. No Meetings Monday: A No Meetings Monday concept is a huge shift for most organizations, clearly requiring leadership commitment. I don’t mean zero meetings, but rather, no internal meetings, which current estimates report average a total of 20+ hours a week! Save a Monday for external meetings and communication. The fact is most people want to do their jobs well, it’s an essential element to one’s ability to thrive. Allowing time and space to do that job well – demonstrates the value of employees and in turn, motivates productive behavior. In addition, connecting with customers or other external parties also helps expand thinking, re-connect the employee to the organization’s purpose, and separate that purpose from what can sometimes be internal “muck-a-luck.”
3. No Cell Phones at Meetings: A recent study published by Harvard Business Review, showed that even having our cell phones nearby led to a statistically significant impairment in an individual’s cognitive thinking and capacity (i,e. ability to reason and problem solve). Consider the effects of a 10-person meeting – many of whom are already “dialing in,” and the collective increase in cognitive capacity, reasoning, problem-solving and creativity with no cell phones nearby.
4. One Hour Think Time: Trying to find an extra hour in your day may be a challenge, which is exactly why you should consider it. I’ve done this for years – allowing weekly time to read, think, create. I also get up at 5:00AM, and know a lot of other professionals who do the same. One CEO told me yoga and morning meditation is a critical part of his day (personally, I usually just sit quietly with a cup of coffee, pad of paper and a pen). The dedicated time allows one to outline what you intend to accomplish that day, rather than simply react to others’ requests.
5. Four or 15-minute Email Challenge: This requires both an organizational and individual shift in thinking. In some cases – with employees reportedly receiving over 125 emails and sending 50 emails a day, email has become the electronic monster of many organizations. Our brains can’t even consume that much information, so we simply don’t. We shut off and often, disengage completely. Consider checking emails 3x a day and sending no more than 4 emails a day. If this seems impossible, consider a 15 minute total response time for each check (45 minutes total check and response to emails per day).
6. Protect Your People: The quickest way for an organization to get control of its own message and prevent information overload and overwhelm is to effectively manage, clarify and align its internal communication. This requires leadership commitment. A smart organization implements a strategic dialogue (my next post will outline one CEO’s successful step-by-step approach to this). A cohesive call to action and dialogue – hopefully demonstrated by a number of positive proof points – is aligned across the organization. The larger and more complex the organization, the greater the need. Clarifying, aligning and controlling the dialogue increases understanding, engagement and also helps prevent overwhelm.
7. No Tech Time: This may be something to first consider on a personal level. While some people have two phones – which may be required by large organizations, I’ve always preferred one to streamline effort and save my eyes! I change the settings during evening hours, when my family has a “no tech time,” rule – only allowing emergency calls to come through. I recognize this may be challenging based on personal circumstances. While I have no “hard data” around my personal actions, there are a number of studies that show the positive impact of cutting screen time for individuals and families, and I’ve seen remarkable improvements in my family and children’s behavior, sleep patterns, creativity and relationships after limiting tech time.
Some of the above ideas are very new, but we’ve already heard positive feedback and anecdotal evidence of increases in clarity, creativity and collaboration. I will keep you posted with a fuller account of the results.
Again, I’m a fan of digital communication – what matters most is how one leverages both the message and medium. Creating healthy, energized environments, great cultures and engaging employees requires more than one-off ideas. An over-arching strategy that meets the audience needs is necessary. In the meantime, I hope considering some of the above ideas may help you “stop the bleeding.”
Patty McDonough Kennedy is a global communication expert with 20+ years of experience in the US, Europe and Africa helping C-level executives, multinational and emerging organizations grow, transform and succeed through smart marketing and communication. Check out her blog The Connection Mindset where she writes about and provides tip that help people and organizations thrive. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.