• Clare Eager

The Unplugged Evolution

Published in the Peterborough Telegraph on Thursday 14th October 2021

Previously, when the word unplugged was used, it was in relation to musicians performing without electric instruments, i.e. Eric Clapton or Nirvana but today, the word unplugged is being applied to many different situations. For example, did you know that there is a whole load of information on the internet on how to have an ‘unplugged wedding’!

In employment and business, to ‘unplug’ means ‘to refrain from using digital or electronic devices for a period of time’. Many organisations are introducing the concept of having company-wide periods of ‘unplugged time’. Whether this is for an hour, an afternoon, or a whole day or two. Organisations are insisting their employees step away from back-to-back virtual video calls with colleagues and clients, cease instant messaging and avoid emailing colleagues during this time. Employees are encouraged to use being unplugged, to catch up on admin, focus on work that doesn’t need the input of others, and use the time to be focused on their family, without electronic distractions.

A great concept in response to the enforced home working following the Covid pandemic. An excellent business practice to implement for improving employee’s wellbeing but I just wonder if some organisations are just jumping on the ‘hip, cool and trendy train’ and using it as a way of putting a sticking plaster over too high business expectations on the time commitment and performance placed on their employees, without examining is this an appropriate way to address their organisations culture?

As with all working practices, enforced unplugging won’t fit all employees, ending up with some who will embrace it and others who will hate it. Unplugging employees could also be interpreted as taking away an employee’s tools to perform their role or shortening the amount of time the employee must deliver their role, and cutting off colleague support and communication which, we all can agree, is vital.

Could an alternative to implementing enforced periods of ‘unpluggedness’ be to look at the expectations placed on employee’s performance as a whole and the demands of their roles. Understand what measure of ‘unplugging’ would work for the employee and the role and associated outputs and use that as a basis, rather than enforcement? Maybe it’s worth considering having standard core ‘plugged’ time e.g. 0930 – 1200 and 1400 - 1600 as an alternative approach? After all, we want all employees to remain ‘plugged in’ to their role!

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