Recently, a Harvard Business Review article talked at length about the loneliness epidemic at work. This unfortunate reality found that nearly 50% of employees reported being lonely, and shortened our lives by the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Unfortunate would certainly be an understatement.
But here we are, in late 2017 where technology and the idea of it is still booming – as it should be. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work from anywhere using devices that didn’t exist two decades ago doing jobs that have been around for the same amount of time? Who wouldn’t want to be able to text someone a quick question rather than call, email rather than use post, or Skype instead of flying across the country?
What we aren’t considering though, it the price we pay for speed, convenience, and even efficiency. The time we save by not having that face-to-face conversation is costing relationships, friendships, and even basic understanding of who we’re working with.
It is no secret that the workplace today is a significant evolution of what it once was: we’ve gone from cubicles and boardrooms to open concept, remote and flex working opportunities, and everything in between. This ability to choose though, and our almost dependency on the tech that enables us to do so is damaging to our social well-being if we rely on it too much. In fact, I believe we’re still in what I would call the Honeymoon Phase of tech integration – where we think that tech is the still the bees knees no matter what.
The key here (like with anything else) is balance. Yes, technology is and will continue to make our lives better, but only if we limit it. It used to be that we got on the internet or phone to escape reality. Now, it seems that turning off our phones is turning off the new reality we’ve created.
Think back to the last dinner at a restaurant or pub you were at. How many phones were on the table? Now think back to the boardroom or meeting and ask the same thing. Knowing that we can’t multitask like we once thought we could, how can we possibly devote our full attention to the person or people we are with knowing that our phone is lighting up every minute or two, or buzzing in our pocket?
We don’t give people the attention they deserve and we are depriving the ability to connect in similar ways we used to.
I often wonder if while the world we may be living in is more and more connected, are we connecting less and less?
HBR would suggest, unfortunately, yes.
And with that, I’ll leave you with one suggestion:
Leave your phone in your pocket and on silent.
No vibrate, no ringer. Only then can we have a conversation and give the person we are talking to our full attention. We don’t wonder what that buzz was, and we don’t see the light of a new text or email.
Seriously consider the cost of ‘connection’ and the dependency of our tools.
We can end this loneliness epidemic one person at a time. It might mean a few missed calls but like everyone else who can commit, you’ll get a call right back.
You deserve my full attention. I respect you enough to give it to you.