Allow Your People to Totally “Unplug”

In the relentless pace of modern life, the idea of “vacation” (in its true sense) has become an anomaly. Or, at least, a bit of a misnomer.


Well, within the last decade and the smartphone/tablet revolution, our portable (and even wearable) devices are practically physical extensions of ourselves. We are constantly scrolling social media, browsing the mobile web, texting, talking, watching, GPS-ing, “yelping” and more.

It’s no wonder most of us have developed a “digital addiction” to some degree or another. And while connection to the information and entertainment superhighway has made our lives infinitely easier, richer, and more accessible… there’s a downside to it as well.

It isn’t just the digital devices we carry around that pose potential problems; it’s also the platforms themselves. According to a 2018 article written by Trevor Haynes of Harvard University, “Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible.”

Think of this kind of digital addiction as an endless neural loop of one dopamine rush (the “reward” chemical our brains release) after another. And, as mentioned in the quote above, it can be as harmful as a gambling or an illicit drug habit if left unchecked.

When we truly “unplug” from our digital age – meaning cell phones and computers are turned off, social media is ignored, and we are left to read only that juicy novel recommended to us by a friend (not on a Kindle, but as a real book with pages and all) we are letting ourselves as human beings recharge our batteries in the deepest, most meaningful ways.

Now, this all sounds good, but I can hear the business wheels in your head turning: “I definitely want to help my team recharge, but how do I do that while keeping my business humming along?”

It’s a valid concern. We are dually preoccupied with keeping our employees happy as well as our business needs fulfilled. The good news is you can accomplish both, with a little forward thinking.

So, as an entrepreneur, what are some ways you can encourage your team members to fully unplug, while addressing business concerns?

Here are a few ideas to get you started, and you may want to expand on these to suit your business model and company culture:

  1. Develop a vacation “buddy system.” This means that each employee has a co-worker that can step in and provide extra support, if needed, while that person is out of the office.
  2. Set expectations that encourage “unplugging.” This means communicating (without need for approval or agreement) to other departments or clients of your “unplugging” policies, and providing alternatives for resources when people are out.
  3. Encourage employees to take an “unplugged” vacation. The reality is, the more recharged and refreshed your team is, the more productive they’ll be. Partial recharging – as in the classic “working vacation” – is ineffective when it comes to helping people to unwind.

If we start to move beyond a conversation of just employee productivity and the resultant profitability to a more well-rounded (and well-grounded) dialogue about wellness, we will naturally have a healthier workforce and robust bottom line.

Technology and business have changed dramatically over the last 20 years – but human beings still require rest, relaxation, and the ability to breathe in order to realize their fullest potential. As business owners, we have the power to help create these healthier, less stressed and more productive teams without compromising our ambitions to scale and grow. In all honestly, “unplugging” will probably help us get there faster.

Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville, TN.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.

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