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Surprising Science

Companies to Employees: Disconnect

Realizing that constant connectivity isn’t always healthy, some business have begun implementing policies designed to manage employees’ online time.

What’s the Latest Development?

Some companies have begun implementing policies that are purposely designed to put some distance between employees and their in-boxes. These range from instituting “blackout hours” on evenings and weekends to eliminating e-mail as a form of communication entirely. Some are simply encouraging workers to be more mindful of the time spent online, and offering tips on how to manage their in-box flow while away from the office. A Pew Research Center report released last year supports the desire of workers to disconnect: 37 percent of surveyed participants said they “could do without” their cellphones, a eight-percent jump from 2006.

What’s the Big Idea?

The image of the hard-charging, Blackberry-packing corporate cowboy or cowgirl is hard to shake, and for those who travel or work with multinational clients, it may not make sense to disconnect at set periods. That said, German automaker Daimler recently released a report whose title summarizes the goal of these policies: “Balanced! — Reconciling Employees’ Work and Private Lives.” Psychologist Sherry Turkle says that the goal isn’t necessarily to get rid of connectivity: “The questions we should ask are, ‘What are the healthy choices?'”

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