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Management Side

Increasing Safety and Productivity with Digital Downtime

Today we're looking at the flip side of smart procurement (June's topic): increasing safety and productivity with digital downtime. As a background, if you google the topic you'll get an amusing list of headlines, ranging from how to fight tech addiction, to articles telling you not to bother disengaging from a screen addiction since it's apparently useless.

But how does this even remotely relate to the pulp and paper industry???

Well, when we spend time going quickly from page to page on a screen, or constantly checking email, or scrolling through social media on break or at home, this actually affects your ability to focus. How so? In a nutshell (summarizing piles of studies into one sentence), because you are continuously interrupted, this slowly erodes your:

  • attention span
  • memory, and
  • ability to problem solve

All key things you need in a pulp and paper mill. (If you care for details, what's happening in the list above is your prefrontal cortex is being changed by not-so-good screen habits.)

But it doesn't affect you. (Or does it?) It's downright impossible to tell that these phones and screens affects us, because everyone around has phones in pockets and screens at work, until we take digital downtime. Begin by setting limits. Put phones down and not in a pocket. Turn off alerts. Set a time limit for social media,...

I didn't think I was affected at all until I used screen time intentionally (as opposed to impulsively switching between tabs), turned off all notifications, and put a timer on social media usage. Hard at first, but quite rewarding. What I notice most, since that change, is my concentration alone has improved at least fivefold.

No overstatement here.

So what happens at work when your memory is improved? And you find you're more observant? Or you're better at problem solving? How will that impact your work performance? Your safety at the mill? (Could this help you or others stay safe? What if you're the one who learns to find solutions where others don't see them? Or your department excels at finding solutions? See the book recommendation following!)

This is not the most popular message to be sure, but put it to the test and see how it helps your safety and performance. The best resource for getting control of digital downtime, and finding a healthy balance, is the book Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi available on Amazon or on (support your local independent bookstore through the latter link).

While you certainly can't - and shouldn't - avoid screens and digitization at the mill, it's what you do on your breaks and off work that makes the difference at work. You'll be safer, and you'll be more productive. And you can still enjoy your screen time, too, by finding that healthy balance.


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