From smartphones to smart homes to web-connected fridges, it’s beginning to feel like there is no escape from this always-on world.
Many of us want the option to switch off the ubiquitous, real-time digital deluge.
Call it a new ‘peace movement’ if you like, and you don’t have to look very far to see evidence of this shift. From the explosion in interest in mindfulness meditation to digital detox holiday resorts, the need to get away from the digital scream is becoming increasingly apparent.
Businesses should be mindful of this shift in attitude and not miss the opportunity to help employees and customers to disengage when they need to. Some well-known brands are already leading the way.
German car manufacturer Volkswagen stops its Blackberry servers sending emails to some of its employees 30 minutes after their shift has ended so they can achieve a healthier work/life balance.
Another German automaker, Daimler, allows employees to have incoming email automatically deleted during vacations so they don’t return to a flooded in-box.
And at Google and AOL, staff are given access to ‘sleep pods,’ with earphones playing soothing music, shutting out external stimuli like the ringtone of your cell phone, so employees can properly recharge during breaks.
Brands like these have discovered that forcing their employees to be switched on all the time actually undermines productivity. It’s a fact many in the psychology world are all too aware of. In a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Utah and University of Kansas in 2012, people scored 50 percent better on a creative problem-solving test after spending four days disconnected from electronic devices.
And the peace movement is not just finding its way into the workplace — marketers are also discovering they can create value by offering consumers the some peace and quiet.
Brazilian beer brand Polar has developed a glass holder that nullifies cell phone signals within a 1.5 meter radius. The idea is to prevent people from constantly checking their devices during social gatherings.
A popular bar in Brazil is attempting to tackle the same issue but with a more low-tech solution. Salve Jorge Bar in São Paulo has developed a beer glass with a step in the base requiring the drinker to place his or her phone under it, making it unavailable for use, to keep the glass upright.
The increasing number of hotels and travel agents offering strict digital-free experiences also forms part of this trend. Witness Palm Island in the Grenadines, where visitors are asked to hand in their digital devices on arrival. Life coaches are available if guests need guidance and advice on how to use their free time productively.
The ubiquity of technology has brought huge benefits to our lives and, for that reason, we’re unlikely to see the digital world rolled back wholesale. But people will demand and create spaces and times where they are free to be human for a moment or even a week or two.
As technology encroaches more and more on our lives, expect a growing number of people to shift towards the peace movement.
People of all ages are beginning to take a step back and reassess their attitude to wellbeing, balance, and happiness. It’s time the businesses world did the same.
Ian Wood is executive director of brand strategy in the London office of global brand consulting firm Landor Associates. He has helped develop strategies for many major companies, including bmi, BP, British Gas, Land Rover, Marks and Spencer, Mazda, PepsiCo, and Pick n Pay. He has worked worldwide in Europe, Japan, the Middle East, Russia, and the United States, and has generated much intellectual content for Landor. Ian recently served as Landor’s first global strategy director, a rotating position. He is also a frequent blogger on Landor.com.