Culture: Take Breaks Because You Can

It's an exciting time to be connected through all our smart devices, it is also overwhelming. 

The research backs me up. Pew Research found that:

  • 84 percent of cellphone users claim they could not go a single day without their device.

  • 67 percent of cellphone owners check their phone for messages, alerts, or calls, even when they don't notice their phone ringing or vibrating.

  • Almost half of cell owners have slept with their phones next to their beds because they wanted to make sure they didn't miss any calls.

  • Studies indicate some mobile device owners check their devices every 6.5 minutes.

I feel this dependence in my day-to-day life. As the notifications pile up, the emails go out all while trying to keep up with the latest technology trends and breaking news.

I’ve also learned the importance of taking a digital detox when you have the chance. I find slivers of time throughout the day, and as a company, we make it a priority to push our employees to unplug, annually for a day of play. 

In 2011, Sparkloft CEO Martin Stoll floated the idea of a company retreat: One part company updates for all employees, one part fun. The goal was to pull everyone away from the office for a shared experience with fewer screens. It started with a lone mountain cabin for a company of 12, but now we have a nice rhythm of getting out to ski, hike, snowshoe and then ending in Hood River.

Our Sparks are more connected than the statistics claim due to our nature and our work. Collectively, we are curious, competitive and collaborative, but when you take the screens out of the equation, we see each other for who we are outside of meeting rooms. 

New traits come out when on the retreat: We learn more about each other’s personal lives and hidden talents. We relax and let conversations flow freely and without Google calendar time constraints. And we come back refreshed and restocked with inside jokes.

Now, our retreat is an annual reminder that in an industry built on innovation and change it is possible to shut down and recharge, even if it’s just for a day.

To me, a lot of the anxieties and hustle of our daily routines are manufactured. What’s really important are the people and relationships. 

At home, we have a very screen aware three-year-old, which really keeps us honest. If he can’t watch Transformers while we eat then we can’t be on our phones. This toddler based reality check has led more family dinners around the table and music instead of television. It’s a good thing for us. 

If you don’t have a toddler and CEO peer-pressuring you, allow me: Put down the device. You never know what you’ll learn when you take a break. 

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