Google Leader: Unplug & Reconnect

Of all the commencement advice we’ve heard this college graduation season, some of the best words of wisdom comes from none other than Google chairman Eric Schmidt.

In his commencement speech last week at Boston University, Schmidt urged students to unplug at least one hour a day.

“Take one hour a day and turn that thing off. Take your eyes off that screen and look into the eyes of the person you love. Have a conversation, a real conversation.”

Schmidt gave a nod to technological advances that have made us better connected – technologically – than ever before. He urged the new graduates to “harness the power,” but also reminded them, “The digital ties that bind our humanity together are not possible without technology, but it’s also not possible without you, without a heart.”

We at Unplug & Reconnect couldn’t agree more.

New Jersey Town Bans Texting While Walking

A New Jersey town’s recent ban on texting while walking has captured our attention. Fort Lee, N.J., police will soon begin issuing $85 jaywalking tickets to pedestrians who are spotted texting while walking, according to ABC News.

The decision to ban texting was not a spontaneous one, but rather a legislative reaction to a string of three fatal accidents, all involving pedestrians who were texting while walking.

While some Fort Lee residents are upset with the ban, we think it’s a good way to highlight the dangers of texting while walking – or driving, for that matter.

The ABC News story points to a study by Stony Brook University in New York, which found that texters are 60 percent more likely to veer off course than non-texters, because the act of texting alters their gait when walking. The study also showed that texting interferes with memory.

“We want to raise awareness that a real disruption occurs because of texting,” Eric Lamberg, co-author of the study, told ABC News. “Texting disrupts your ability much more than does talking.”

Ten Reasons You Know You’re Addicted to Technology

    1. You woke up this morning with a cell phone clutched in your hand.
    2. At dinner, you texted your son to pass the potatoes.
    3. After staring at screens, you now see rectangular objects when you close your eyes.
    4. On a family camping trip, you insist on driving 50 miles to the nearest wireless hot spot.
    5. Your idea of family game night is to break out the Xbox.
    6. You interrupt a romantic evening with your spouse to update your Facebook status.
    7. Your child asks for a playdate — via Outlook
    8. You “speak” with your best friend by email and don’t recognize her actual voice when she calls.
    9. Walking and talking on your cell phone, you almost fall into an open manhole.
    10. You spend your whole trip to the Grand Canyon peering through a video lens.

 

Why Companies Encourage Unplugging

Unplugging from Technology

More and more employers are encouraging their employees to unplug from technology.

Does being plugged in 24/7 make for a better employee?

Not necessarily. According to Time.com, employers are encouraging their employees to find a better work-life balance by taking a break from being constantly connected.

In a recent article, “Why Companies Should Force Employees to Unplug,” the online news magazine cited companies ranging from Atos and Duetsche Telekom to Google and Volkswagen,  which have recently adopted measures to get their employees to unplug from technology. Volkswagen, for example, deactivates emails on German staff BlackBerries during non-office hours and limits the transmission of work-related emails during non-work hours.  Google famously insists its employees unplug for portions of their workweek, the better to stir creative juices.

But employers are motivated by more than altruism, says Time. The news magazine noted a 2009 Stanford University study, which found that people who are constantly exposed to electronic information don’t pay attention as well or switch from task to task as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.

“There’s no priority structure. Everything is urgent. Everything is red flagged,” Nancy Rothbard, a Wharton management professor, told Time.com. As a result, activities that require a great deal of focus — like decision making or writing — get short shrift.

The ability to focus is not all that suffers from our constant connection to technology. Time.com cited numerous studies showing that psychological detachment is important to employees’ health and well being, as well as stress reduction. This well being, in turn, translates to fewer sick days and lower healthcare costs for employers.

Another study by the Harvard Business School found that study participants who were encouraged to engage in regular downtime while carrying out a high-pressure project reported greater job satisfaction, were more likely to envision a long-term career with their firm, and experienced a better work-life balance than those who did not participate in the study.

These are all compelling reasons employees to unplug and reconnect — and for their employers to support them while they’re doing it.

 

App Lets You Unplug Without Going Off the Grid

Unplug and Reconnect is introducing a new app for the Android that uses technology to schedule a break from technology. It “silences” your phone for a predetermined period and lets your friends know that you are temporarily unplugging from the virtual or technical world and reconnecting with real life. Once unplugging time is over, the app restores your phone to its prior settings.

“The new Unplug and Reconnect app, like no other app available on the Android market, makes it easy to schedule a ‘phone vacation’ or an unplugging and reconnecting event anytime you want,” said Dr. Joseph Geliebter, founder and CEO of Unplug and Reconnect, an organization dedicated to educating people about the importance of unplugging from technology and reconnecting with the people and events that are meaningful to them.

With the new app – which is available free of charge and free of any advertising –Android users can:

  • Schedule unplugging time in advance. At the scheduled time, your smartphone will switch to silent, vibrate, call reject or airplane mode, depending on your selection.
  • Generate an automatic text message when the phone is in “call reject” mode – such as “I’m taking ‘me’ time” – so anyone calling your phone will know you’re taking a break from technology.
  • Automatically post status updates to Facebook and Twitter, should you choose to tell your friends how you’re spending your unplugging time and the duration of the break.
  • Stop worrying about forgetting to reset your phone to ring mode after unplugging time is over – the new app automatically does it for you.
  • Get instant reminders of upcoming breaks from technology that you have scheduled.

Feedback from test users indicates that several innovative features make the new app especially useful. Testers particularly liked the app feature that restores phone alert settings once an unplugging session has ended.

The app is available in the Android Marketplace.