Remote workers just might be the most plugged-in group on the planet. Because remote work requires using electronic devices both to produce deliverables as well as stay in touch with clients and colleagues, those who work virtually may find themselves spending too much time online and with their tech devices.
And the pandemic certainly isn’t helping the situation. With nearly half of Americans working from home, many schools operating online, and quarantines requiring social distancing, technology is our lifeline right now—in more ways than one.
That said, you may need a tech break—here’s how you’ll know it’s time.
Signs You Need a Tech Break
Americans spend, on average, 8.6 hours per day interacting with technology. That means we spend the vast majority of our waking hours on some form of tech.
If you work from home, chances are you already know some of the important reasons to take a break from technology, but how do you know when it’s time to detox from your devices for a while? Your answers to these questions can shed some light:
- Do you check your smartphone for work emails first thing when you wake up and the last thing you do before you go to bed?
- Do you go through every day with your smartphone and/or computer within arm’s length, constantly vigilant for new emails and texts?
- Have you taken on such a large workload that you feel it’s hard to step away from your desk, even to take breaks, during your workday?
- Do you find yourself working all day and into the night on your projects, stopping only to eat and sleep (if you’re lucky)?
Other signs that you need a break from your devices can be the push you need to shake up your habits and find more balance.
You Have Physical Pain and Strain
Tension in your back and neck (sometimes referred to as “tech neck”), headaches, eye strain, dry eyes, and even carpal tunnel syndrome can all be signs that you’re overdoing the tech.
You’re Not Sleeping Well
Not only do constant updates on your devices keep your mind going a million miles a minute, but the light emanating from phones, tablets, computers, and TVs can disrupt your circadian rhythm and throw your sleep schedule off.
You Have FOMO
Yes, it’s a real psychological phenomenon—the Fear of Missing Out. If your genuine desire to stay in touch with friends and family has turned into a technology addiction that has you checking social media all day long and comparing yourself to the (highly curated) posts you see there, it’s time for a major break.
You’re Feeling Stressed and Anxious
If you find yourself feeling anxious about your email inbox or the pings of your instant messaging program make your heart skip a beat, you’re probably too attached to your tech. Obsessively checking emails and replying to everything immediately not only ramps up your stress, but it takes time away from your ability to focus deeply on other work.
8 Tips for Taking a Tech Break
In a recent survey, 59% of respondents reported spending more time on their smartphones, and 55% say they’re on their computers more often since the pandemic began. With remote work, Zoom fitness classes, and virtual get-togethers, most everyone’s tech usage has skyrocketed. Ready for a change? Some of this is good, though, since it’s allowed us to stay in touch with loved ones. But, it’s still important to wind down. Here’s how to unplug.
1. Take Baby Steps
Begin your tech detox with a short period each day when you’re free from your devices and their distractions.
Your tech-free time could be a half-hour for lunch when you go for a walk or as you’re getting ready for bed. Gradually, you can build up to additional unplugged breaks during the workday.
2. Let It Be Known
One thing that can be anxiety-inducing about a tech break is worrying about coworkers and family trying to reach you. Set boundaries, stick to a daily schedule (with designated “office” hours), and let people know about your plans to be offline at certain set times during the day.
3. Put It Away and Turn It Off (Really)
Don’t rely on willpower alone to get you through your tech detox periods. Turn off your phone, or at least temporarily silence your email and social media alerts. Place electronic devices in a drawer or other safe storage space out of your line of vision until you’re ready to reconnect.
4. Take Movement Breaks
To combat the physical and emotional effects of too much tech, take frequent movement breaks. A quick walk around the block or a 5-minute stretching routine will relax the muscles in your neck, back, and shoulders that bear the brunt of being plugged in.
5. Give Your Eyes a Rest
our rate of blinking decreases while looking at a screen, and your eyes must tense to focus on something near. To relax and refresh your eyes, gaze into the distance every 20 minutes for 20 seconds—this allows the muscles to relax and let go.
6. Set Up Daily Non-Tech Time
Schedule time at least once every day to be fully without any tech (including your phone!). Ideally, this time is set in stone, so schedule it away from work and family obligations that necessitate being plugged in. Then, whatever you choose to do during this time, give it your undivided attention.
7. Power Down Before Bed
Sleep is a time for your body and mind to rest and repair from the day’s stressors, and you can’t do that if you’re all wound up from before-bed scrolling. Focus instead on things that relax you—a warm bath, a game of cards, or a good old fashioned book can ease you into dreamland without the added stress of technology.
8. Start the Day Sans Tech
What you do first thing in the morning sets the tone for the entire day, so giving yourself one hour before you dive into all those emails and alerts may be just what you need to cope with the rest of your day immersed in technology. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to manage without your early morning tech fix, then find something to replace it—like meditation, a walk outside, or a cup of tea or coffee in an outdoor space.
Benefits of Taking a Break From Technology
There are numerous health benefits of unplugging from technology. Research shows that unplugging after work gives people a better quality of life and makes them healthier and happier. And, taking some time away from tech can positively impact mental health. What’s more, people who disengage from tech before going to bed not only sleep better, they report feeling less groggy, happier, and more rejuvenated than those who don’t.
On a personal level, taking a tech break can enable you to develop closer in-person relationships and help you learn to live in—and appreciate—the moment with those you care about. When you’re fully present and able to interact without technology interruptions, your interpersonal communication skills will also improve.
Ditching the tech every now and then can also improve your self-worth. Did you know that one in three people feel worse about themselves after visiting Facebook? Spending less time comparing yourself to others you see on social media takes you out of negative self-talk and back into reality where everyone has struggles, no matter how perfect everything may seem online.
Time to Unplug
Among the many reasons to take a break from technology is giving yourself the space and time you need to feel your best each and every day.
For more tips on how to navigate the world of remote work, sign up for the FlexJobs newsletter. You’ll get the best advice and resources, featured jobs, job search tips, and more sent right to your inbox.
Don’t forget to share this article with friends!