The case for disconnectedness

In this post I argue that, in a connected learning environment, being disconnected is essential to being productive as well as caring for yourself.

Enquiring about the well-being of one of the School of Nursing and Midwifery CPAD students recently she told me the following, ” Some see it as working at home, I feel that I am living at work”. I am sure that she isn’t alone in this feeling.

Over the last seven or eight months initially through necessity-and even now as recommended, we have in effect allowed some of our safest places, our sanctuaries and dare I say it our personal asylums, – our homes- to become part of the rat race that we call work.

We have had to learn new technologies, refine how we work, deal with technological issues and in some cases deliver set content in less hours than previously afforded in our teaching timetables. And this is all with the sword of the NSS hanging over our heads. Pedro Noguera recently noted, “teaching is exhausting, emotionally and psychologically exhausting”. He then goes on to argue “…if you don’t want to give people support, they won’t want to stay in the career. To certain extent I agree. However, this implies that the support should be top-down and here is where I digress from Noguera.

Yes, the employer needs to accept some responsibility to support me, however I also have a responsibility to look after my own health. Working in the Academy and the concept of academic freedom offers the ability to meet work and professional obligations in a manner that is consistent with my obligations to myself and my family. That is why there are times when I choose to wilfully disconnect.

Email + Instant messaging + social media + the world wide web = Information overload = Noise.

Like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, that noise can become paralysing. It is okay at times to admit that it becomes too much, and at that stage it is appropriate to walk away for a short period of time. School of Nursing and Midwifery Senior Lecturer Dr Derek McLaughlin often talks about, and encourages students to take, guilt free breaks. That can be for as short as an hour or a day or longer. There are times when we need to disconnect from the noise that surrounds us.

Constant digital connection is associated with increased levels of loneliness, anxiety and depression. Disconnection clears the mind, improves concentration and helps focus which in turn increases productivity, I feel better and I get more done-a ‘win win’! In a blog post last year Natalie Cawthorne listed five reasons to disconnect from the digital world.

  1. Greater work-life balance
  2. Decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression
  3. Lower levels of job fatigue and burnout
  4. Reduced stress
  5. Better sleep

It is important to emphasise that the disconnections need to be complete and not simply transferred from desktop or laptop to a tablet and/or smartphone. The ease with which we can inadvertently find ourselves engrossed in something can be frightening. How many of us, attempting to switch off, have taken to a social media site only to find something that you think may be of interest to your students? I do it regularly! The all-pervasive nature of connectedness can be harmful.

I am by no means Luddite or even anti-tech. Those that know me may even say I’m bit of a geek in relation to tech, but I try to engage with it on my terms. I hasten to add not always successfully though.

My colleague and School of Nursing and Midwifery Lecturer Colin Hughes recently recorded a podcast that was published on the RCNi website on why and how nurses should self-care during the Covid pandemic. He talks about the value of routine as one coping mechanism. So my challenge to you, dear reader, is this. Build yourself a routine and make being disconnected from a digital world part of it. In other words, get connected with the physical world around you. You will feel better for it.

4 thoughts on “The case for disconnectedness

  1. Thanks for this very useful blog. Connecting with the physical world always enhances my well-being. Colin’s podcast is so helpful too, so thanks for the link to that – highly recommended!

  2. Great post Iain, constant hours in front of the screen actually become counterproductive – the difficulty lies in times pressures and deadlines where you think that working for long periods of time is required to get the job done…I’ve alway found this to be an anti-task behaviour as it leads to cognitive blocks meaning that it takes longer to get finished….Derek is 100% right. Guilt free breaks are essential! Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been fitting in some episodes of Kobra Kai (I have no shame).

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