CRN to Go Cold Turkey on Smartphones, Computers

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Could you go an entire work day without using your smartphone or computer?

Surely it would make your job harder – but impossible? You might be nervous, stressed, fearful, anxious, insecure and uncertain -- basically all the traits that make you compulsively check messages and attack keyboards in the first place, sometimes without really thinking or knowing why.

Our entire company is planning a “No-Screen Day” in a few weeks to coincide with the launch of our new podcast series, “Distraction.” The series is hosted by Dr. Edward Hallowell, who talks about toxic distractions in everyday life, the danger of “screen-sucking,’’ and the importance of making real-life connections to cope and prosper in our crazy-busy modern world.

Dr. Hallowell is not suggesting to any person or organization that they toss technology in the ocean; it’s just that there is a majestic and meaningful universe out there that may never be discovered unless you log out and look around.

The idea to go cold turkey on screens is not Dr. Hallowell’s – that’s on all of us here at CRN. It started as an interesting marketing strategy to draw attention to “Distraction” and Dr. Hallowell, and support the theories (albeit to an extreme) for which he and our podcast stand. But as we mapped out a game plan, we gave pause to the wondrous opportunity before us.

We’ll have to alert all relevant parties what we’re doing and how to reach us in an emergency. Personal voicemail messages will have to change for the day. “Out-of-office” emails will have to be set up to bounce back to senders with a scripted message about the day. Any scheduled eblasts will need to go to customers in advance. It will be an excuse to call all business partners (as if we needed one). We will notify the media, issue a press release, and post our intentions on social media.

Departments will need to pre-plan their workloads and make contingencies in the case of an urgent customer request. Assignments have to be understood.

So how’s a radio marketing company to spend the day without screens? A whirlwind of ideas were presented to get us off the daily treadmill, stop the frenetic pace and break out into live discussions to explore how to enhance communication and think bigger picture. Hear from voices not typically heard from. Do some internal power bonding. One exercise on the table is a corporate “speed dating” format whereby each person spends five minutes talking to a person he or she probably doesn’t know past a hallway hello and then moving on to the next one, and the next.

As we contemplated our day, it was nice to see we weren’t alone in our thinking: WNYC Studios was presenting Infomagical, an audience engagement and podcast series that looks at the consequences of FOMO (fear of missing out) and information overload on our brains, relationships, and our ability to generate new ideas.

As for taking a timeout from our usual work routine, well, business won’t be compromised. Perhaps we were inspired by outdoor equipment company REI’s marketing decision to close this past Black Friday and instruct their 10,000 employees to go outside and play.

Says Dr. Hallowell, “It used to be that the mail came once a day and we ran to the mailbox with great anticipation of what would arrive. Now, that positive reinforcement is available every few seconds.”

Many of us have no recollection of working for an organization prior to screen dependence. We’re not sure it’s even possible now, but history assures us that countries, companies and iconic inventions have been built without them.

As we get closer to pulling our internal switch, you’ll hear more about CRN’s no-screen day and the lessons to be taught by “Distraction” and Dr. Hallowell. Visit www.DistractionPodcast.com where you can sign up to be one of the first listeners of our new podcast.

Are we on to a noble pursuit here? Really, how can we not be? When we raised the idea, one manager snapped, “How the hell are we going to tell the staff they can’t use their smartphones or computers for a day?” That clinched it for me. You gotta love the power of the spoken word.

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Jim Alkon
Marketing Director