Why ‘old school’ phones may help us go offline

There was a mention on the radio the other morning that the number of ‘old-school’ mobile phones being purchased was on the rise, those old ‘dumb’ phones that, unlike ‘smart’ phones, cannot access the internet or email. The reason given was that people were choosing not to be available online all the time. The old style mobiles allow you to still be contacted by family or, if you choose, by your work place via a call or text in the case of emergency, but you are not ‘online’ and available to the world at all times. Also, it reduces the urge to ‘just check in’. Neuroscience research has shown that we get a dopamine rush to our brain’s reward centres when we respond to incoming messages and alerts, so that our brains are ‘wiring’ in the habit of checking in, as a response to that pleasurable dopamine boost.

The issue of employees being always contactable or in touch with the wider world is regularly raised across organisations that we work with. People feel they expect to be, or are being expected to be, available for work-related communication outside office hours on a regular basis e.g. on the way to and from work, at home, on the weekends and even when on holiday. While this is understandable in some situations, such as emergency roles, as a rule of thumb this encroachment into recovery time should not be encouraged. Research shows that scheduled time off and periods of recovery are important to our overall well-being and performance.

Some organisations have taken the initiative to reduce this expectation and banned all but essential work emails, texts and calls between specific time periods.

As individuals, what can we do to make sure we recover and keep involved with the things, outside work, that are important to us?

Maybe one solution is buying, or dragging out of the bottom drawer, that old mobile phone that only takes calls and texts?