I find it more than slightly ironic to be doing this research at home on a Sunday, my husband next to me on the couch watching football, the already-consumed New York Times and Los Angeles Times between us and the silence that results from one partner being engaged in something private – online research. I am searching for articles about how to unplug – scientific articles that detail the benefits from unplugging. As I peruse the internet jungle for this information, I feel my shoulders scrunching up with tension, and laugh in the recognition of computer stress-induced physiognomy.

Anyway, here is just an afternoon’s sampling of what is out there in the way of research. None of it is particularly feel-good for those of us who wear our iphones on our hips both during the week at work, and on the weekend at home. I’ve tried to prioritize the links in order of relevance.

  1. Overview – http://greatist.com/happiness/unplugging-social-media-email

“It’s entirely feasible to never stop working – is that a good thing?”

  1. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/04/smartphone-addiction-research-work-email

Only a handful of enlightened firms have tackled this problem companywide. At Bandwidth, a tech company with 300-plus employees, CEO David Morken grew tired of feeling only half-present when he was at home with his six children, so he started encouraging his staff to unplug during their leisure time and actually prohibited his vacationing employees from checking email at all—anything vital had to be referred to colleagues. Morken has had to sternly warn people who break the vacation rule; he asks his employees to narc on anyone who sends work messages to someone who’s off—as well as those who sneak a peek at their email when they are supposed to be kicking back on a beach. “You have to make it a firm, strict policy,” he says. “I had to impose it because the methlike addiction of connection is so strong.”

Once his people got a taste of totally disconnected off-time, however, they loved it. Morken is convinced that his policy works in the company’s self-interest: Burned-out, neurotic employees who never step away from work are neither productive nor creative. It appears everyone wins when the boss offers workers ample time to unplug—tunnel or no tunnel.

Clive Thompson, May/June 2014 issue of Mother Jones



  1. Will the feds get involved in reducing our after hours email? http://www.ibtimes.com/after-hours-use-work-email-may-finally-see-some-labor-regulations-1940882
  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/29/opinion/end-the-tyranny-of-24-7-email.html?_r=0

Holiday Mode – refers emailers to another source then deletes the email. Used in Germany at Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom

White-collar cubicle dwellers complain about email for good reason. They spend 28 percent of their workweek slogging through the stuff, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. They check their messages 74 times a day, on average, according to Gloria Mark, an authority on workplace behavior and a professor at the University of California, Irvine.

And lots of that checking happens at home. Jennifer Deal, a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership, surveyed smartphone-using white-collar workers and found that most were umbilically tied to email a stunning 13.5 hours a day, well into the evening. Workers don’t even take a break during dinner — where, other research shows, fully 38 percent check work email “routinely,” peeking at the phone under the table. Half check it in bed in the morning. What agonizes workers is the expectation that they’ll reply instantly to a colleague or boss, no matter how ungodly the hour. Hence the endless, neurotic checking, and the dread of getting in trouble for ignoring something.

So as a matter of sheer human decency and workplace fairness, reducing the chokehold of after-hours email is a laudable goal.

But it also appears that, from a corporate standpoint, the sky won’t fall. The few North American firms that have emulated Daimler all say it is surprisingly manageable.

At the Toronto office of Edelman, the global public relations firm, managers created the “7-to-7” rule. Employees are strongly discouraged from emailing one another before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. Sure, they can check email if they want — but they’re not to send it to colleagues. It’s an acknowledgment that the only way to really reduce email is to persuade colleagues not to reflexively write every time they have the tiniest question.

Clive Thompson, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, is the author of “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better.”

DIGITAL OVERTIME (Mother Jones 2011 July article)

A survey of employed email users finds:

22% are expected to respond to work email when they’re not at work.

50% check work email on the weekends.

46% check work email on sick days.

34% check work email while on vacation.

6-10. These all go together:





11. Remedies and Benefits to unplugging:

One week Digital Detox: http://greatist.com/grow/one-week-digital-detox-plan





Once a week shutting down completely. Taking a Shabbat from technology.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/why-huffpost-staffers-mak_n_4903360.html March 7-8 National Unplugging day 2014

Take the Pledge – March 4-5, 2016 National Unplugging Day http://nationaldayofunplugging.com/

Dr. Susan D. Mueller’s article in Communicar, 39, XX, 2012 with Elia Powers and Jessica Roberts






  • 9% of cell owners say that their phone makes it “a lot” harder to disconnect from work life. This concern is particularly acute among cell owners in high-income households.





4 thoughts

  1. Wow! Wish David Morken had been my CEO while I was still day-jobbing in technology at The Gulag. We were expected to stay tuned, whether at home or on vacation, at all times. And because there was pretty constant upheaval, you felt compelled to, just to know where the next forks in the road were, and who your new manager and team was going to be (this on a fairly routine, every 6-8 week shuffle). Haven’t had time to read through all of your links yet, but definitely will. Many thanks for taking on this research. Now, take that phone off your hip!

    1. It’s pretty interesting, right? There is an expectation that we will be available quickly for students’ inquiries. I know that it is up to me to set the boundaries, but it is hard sometimes…

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