Summer will be ending in just a few short weeks and perhaps the craziest, scariest, most uncertain school year of our lifetime will begin, affecting not just school-aged children and their families, but employers, coworkers, friends, relatives, everybody. While the whens and hows are still up in the air, it is for certain that school will resume next month one way or another.
It is very likely that households with children will be faced with many challenges when it comes to managing a household, educating children, and balancing their work. The varying degree of challenges this poses won’t just affect families with school-aged children— distant relatives, grandparents, friends, and neighbors will likely step in to help. Coworkers and employers may have to reconsider policies and procedures to accommodate the sudden influx of homeschool parents.
Perhaps one of the best ways you can prepare yourself for the undoubtedly challenging year ahead is a technology detox. Take steps now to avoid burnout later. Since children will likely be utilizing even more screen time doing online schooling, perhaps the whole family could benefit from a technology detox and finding a better balance with technology use.
The tools that have been honed to keep us connected in a time they’re needed most are the very same things that are causing burnout and increased stress. According to Zapier’s Digital Natives Report, roughly 70 percent of Gen Z (ages 18-23) and Millennial (ages 24-39) employees (the largest generation in the U.S. labor force) say they are “constantly” using or checking work communication tools outside of work. 39 percent of Millennial employees say they check their work email and messaging tools more than they check their personal social media accounts. The study also finds that 66 percent of Gen Z employees and 57 percent of Millennial employees expect their teammates to respond to them outside of work hours.
While these generations are often regarded as lazy or uncommitted in the workplace, this study suggest quite the opposite—they’re too committed. This constant consumption with work leads to the next finding of the study, which may come as no surprise to many; 60 percent of Gen Z and 73 percent of Millennial employees have experiences “periods of decreased work productivity due to job burnout.”
This doesn’t mean older generations in the workforce are not at risk for burnout, too. While this particular study focuses on “Digital Natives” (those who were born into or grew up during the digital age therefore have had exposure to internet and computers from an early age), the vast majority of older generations have adopted these same technologies, according to a study by Pew Research.
A digital detox may be simpler than you think. It does not mean locking your laptops, tablets, and phones in a box and going camping in the wilderness for a week. There are many approaches both big and small that can be taken right now.
For the workplace, try things like scheduling your time with tech. Rather than keeping your email open throughout the day, try setting aside blocks of time to check it 2-3 times per day, or committing to at least a 30 minute lunch away from your computer and devices every day. Take time to devise a plan and the boundaries you wish to set and talk to your employer and coworkers about your goals.
An article in Forbes details the “30 Day Digital Detox Challenge,” with steps like not using devices for the first hour after you wake up each morning, not using devices when you’re with your children or pets, or refraining from use while waiting for an event to start (like a movie, concert, meeting, etc.). Plan ahead and think about the reason you want to detox in the first place. Be mindful of your goals and what you want to fill your time with in lieu of devices—a hobby like reading, making music, or homebrewing? More time with family and friends? Exercise or meditation?
A digital detox is not a quick-fix for burnout or being overworked, but it is a simple step forward as you navigate work-life balance and maintaining your mental health.