Want to be ‘Smart?’ Ditch Your Smartphone for a While

Every so often, you observe an encounter so poignant that it must be shared.

Here is the scene I observed this morning on a crowded elevator: A young man enters, absorbed with his smartphone. In steps an older man, who pushes the button to another floor. Looking around, he spots the first gentleman staring at the phone.

“You know there’s life happening all around you, right?” the older man says with a smile.

The first man takes a beat and chuckles awkwardly, not sure how to respond and not sure if he should take it as a slight or just a social commentary. I’m sure I spotted a red blush creeping up around his neck and face. I should have gone up a few extra floors to see how it played out.

I told a co-worker about the encounter and she added how she’d seen a news story about a woman that had walked into an open manhole because she was distracted on her phone. A little Google search confirms her story. It also turns up a 2012 study by BMJ (British Medical Journal), in which pedestrians were observed at 20 high-risk intersections and their behaviors recorded. Those who were texting took an extra 1.87 seconds to cross and were almost four times as likely to display at least one unsafe crossing behavior (not looking both ways, ignoring traffic lights, etc.).

Not only are we missing out on life, but technology addiction can lead to accident and injury!

I’m just as guilty as the next person; I play on my phone and listen to music on the way to the parking garage after work. Also, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to stop taking my phone into the bathroom with me. The bathroom! (Don’t even pretend I’m the only one.)

Another danger: This is breeding a new generation of workaholics. While technology allows convenience by being able to work wherever and whenever, employees who are constantly “on” aren’t getting time to relax and recover for the next work day.

Some companies have caught on to how this negatively impacts their workers. In 2011, Volkswagen created a new policy that its servers would stop routing company emails 30 minutes after the workday ended and would not resume until 30 minutes before the workday began (the rule doesn’t apply to senior management). Other companies are tackling the issue as well, realizing that blurring the line of work and personal life is bad for employee well-being and business.

What’s that famous proverb? Oh yes, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” seems appropriate at this moment.

Do yourself a favor: Put your smartphone away today. Encourage your employees to rest and relax on their off hours. Remember the wise words spoken in my elevator and stop missing the “life happening all around you.”