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Time for a digital detox?

What are the benefits of a digital detox?

In my job, apart from advising on digital hiring, I often act as a sounding board for senior executives. Sometimes it’s broader business issues but often personal leadership challenges. One theme I hear a lot more recently is workplace fatigue from being glued to digital devices for what I estimate to be half our lives.

We all know digital addiction exists and perhaps something more commonly associated with social media. But are business executives becoming afflicted by the same issue with a COVID-fuelled home working environment and little delineation between work and personal?

Not many of us will miss long commutes, but my sense is that time is merely translating into longer working longer hours, the vast majority of which is in front of a screen.

The concern I have is around the long term, engrained behaviours digital technology is creating amongst us. It gets us in the habit of doing things which we consciously know aren’t good for us, but we still feel compelled to do. A prime example is waking up and checking emails in the middle of the night. And worse yet, replying to them. OK, we’ve all done it – anyone remember those jet-lagged business trips we once went on? Quite apart from the stimulation to our brain, the impression it creates is not favourable. It suggests we don’t have the discipline to create boundaries. And that’s just it: I suspect many of us don’t.

Have we created cultures of ‘immediacy’ and an expectation that we’re always ‘on’?

The net result of over-stimulation from digital immersion is we aren’t as effective. We feel jaded, we don’t think as clearly, and productivity drops. Indeed, only last week, I read a quarter of firms surveyed reported a concerning decrease in productivity since the start of COVID, admittedly in some part due to the limitations of not meeting people physically.

As business leaders, we have a responsibility to encourage wellbeing, and a good starting point is promoting firmer boundaries for our people. Let’s call it periods of digital detox. We follow this path to give our bodies a break, yet are we neglecting the most important muscle of all: our brain?

Do we need more focus on cultures that don’t promote a 24/7 mindset? Our brains need time to recharge.

If we can introduce positive digital ‘habits’ to complement the incredible possibilities that digital technology presents, I reckon it’s a winning combination.

Below are a few things my digital executive network is practising on digital detox:


1) Build structure and boundaries into your diary for exercise, a hard stop finish and some ‘you’ time

2) Set clear expectations when you’ll access and reply to an email. Outlook can be a productivity killer

3) Make sure your colleagues know that if something is urgent, they should call you

4) Talk where possible and use email to document actions

5) Mix up audio and video calls to avoid getting ‘Zoomed out’

6) Be mindful of creating excessive chat groups

7) Agree on phone-free zones in the house

8) Recognise how hard you work and that you owe it to yourself to maintain a healthy lifestyle


Let me know how you go with your transformation and incorporating digital detox into life.


About BartonRock: We are the executive search partner for companies where data-driven digital leadership is intrinsic to growth.

We manage the careers of leaders whose know-how and commercial acumen within digital steers the strategic direction and future survival of companies.

Our assignments search for executives who understand how to implement and lead data-centric digital agendas.

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