Digital Detox?

As someone who relies heavily on email communication, the idea of a company policy which insists on weekly ‘digital downtime’ fascinates me.

To actually have a morning a week where the whole agency steps away from their tech sounds utopian doesn’t it. Of course we’d collectively take part in brainstorms, unlock creative potential, talk through ideas and concepts, spend time thinking rather than doing. Perhaps we’d achieve more, even better outcomes?

But, if we all stepped away from our desks and put our phones down, at the same time, imagine the potential fall-out for a PR and marketing agency; clients urgent requests unanswered, journalist requests ignored, print and copy deadlines missed. The stress of returning to your desk after the imposed digital detox would probably undo all the good work of the downtime – if you ever managed to switch off your brain from panicking about what you were actually failing to deliver.

Yet, somehow, Virgin has managed to do just that. Every Wednesday morning the email system is turned off, and around 200 employees in America and the UK must step away from their desks. What do they do? They brainstorm, attend walking meetings, running clubs, go to the gym, or actually talk to colleagues face-to-face.

Sounds fantastic, but I really wonder whether it’s something that’s sustainable long-term for all 200 of the employees, or whether it’ll become eroded over time. Maybe the solution is a lighter version to ensure business needs are still met.