BOSTON (CBS) – We can be tethered to work through technology. Constantly checking emails and messages even when we’re not at the office. But, what if it didn’t have to be this way.
Deborah Lovich was working harder and longer hours all to get ahead on the job. Treating her smartphone like a member of the family meant missing out on time with her actual family. “My daughter joked you don’t know where my school is. I know where her school is. But, to have a daughter joke that just holds up a mirror and says how much are you traveling and not around,” says Lovich.
But then her company, The Boston Consulting Group, agreed to take part in an intriguing experiment. What would happen if it’s workers, who are conditioned to work 24/7, took one night off. A small team of employees at BCG were the test subject. They would cover for each other to make sure every member of the team got one night a week to completely turn off.
The idea is the brainchild of Harvard Professor Leslie Perlow, author of the book “Sleeping with your Smartphone.”
So what’s wrong with constantly having our smartphones within arm’s reach? “The downfall is that it’s unnecessary and we convince ourselves that it’s a requirement of the job,” says Perlow.
The surprise of this experiment wasn’t that shutting the smartphone off made for a better personal life. The surprise was unplugging actually made the work better. “Productivity absolutely went up,” says Perlow. Her colleague, Jon Swan, agrees, “you can work less but actually work better.”
How much better? A survey of BCG employees taking part in the experiment found the work to be more collaborative, efficient, and effective. Job satisfaction also started to soar.
Perlow adds, “the amazing result here is: pay attention to people’s personal lives and you will get these tremendous work benefits.” Empowering employees to let the company know when they need time off is key to this new-found freedom.
Swan says this allowed him to relax and not even think about the messages piling up in his inbox while he was off.
And Lovich says this way of working really makes a difference, “you really learn to take time off and not worry.”
What started as an experiment in here in Boston has now spread to BCG offices around the world.