Hyperconnection: how do you find the right digital balance?

The need for a digital detox has become a priority for most of us in our personal and professional lives. Why? Because 15 to 20% of digital users believe they’re using their devices excessively and two thirds to three quarters now say they want to disconnect*. So, where are we in our relationship with our beloved screens? At home, on the move or in the office, what responsibility do we have and what resolutions should we make to find a better balance?

My device and me: I love to hate you

In Spring 2019, Orange joined forces with Opinionway to conduct an international study that sheds light on the relationship we have with digital tools, in particular our smartphone.

  • An intense relationship: between 20 and 42% say they look at their smartphone several times an hour.
  • A functional and emotional relationship: we look at our phone the minute we get up and feel lost without it.
  • A consciously dependent relationship: more than two thirds of us say they feel a real sense of dependency – with the exception being people living in sub-Saharan Africa. Most are also aware of the negative effects of being permanently connected: from lack of attention to tiredness, irritability, decrease in productivity and risk of addiction…

Result: more than 80% of respondents feel the need to disconnect from their devices. Most of them are starting to do so.
Exceptions: 15 to 20% of respondents in France and the UK don’t feel they need to.

* “Observatory of digital uses” study by Orange – Opinionway carried out in 2019 in 9 countries on 4 continents: France, UK, Spain, United-States, South Korea, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire

Disconnecting at work: a need, and in fact a right

The study also shows that 40 to 60% of digital users connect to their work email or server outside the office*. The same number feels this is one of the benefits of digital. Indeed, hyper-connection does offer real advantages in terms of greater time/place flexibility, especially when it comes to tele-working. It can, however, be open to abuse, such as emailing on holiday, instant messaging at all times of the day and night etc. Employees can quickly feel overwhelmed, under pressure and in search of permanent performance. This needs attention.

This is also why in 2016 France was the first country to introduce a law that gave employees the right to disconnect (El Khomri law of 8 August 2016). Companies with more than 50 employees must include the right to disconnect into employee contracts and policies.
In other countries, reflection or negotiations are underway. Initiatives to encourage disconnection are generally seen as the responsibility of companies themselves outside France.

What can I do to find a better balance?

  • Pay attention to your relationship with your screens, especially your smartphone: why not start by downloading an app that monitors your screen time? One in five digital users already do this*.
  • Set out a few rules: no computer on weekends or holidays, no device in the bedroom or screens after 10pm… it’s up to you to set your own rules.
  • Involve your loved ones : do you have kids? Set some family rules for everyone to follow, especially little ones. If you’re single, involve your friends. They’ll thank you for it!
  • Set up automatic safeguards: cut your Wi-Fi after 11pm, switch your smartphone into airplane mode at night, use an app that restricts social media during office hours… there are many automatic ways to restrict your use so experiment with the ones you find the most useful.
  • Replace screen time with moments of genuine relaxation: read a book you’ve been meaning to pick up for months, test out a new recipe, meditate, it’s up to you…
  • Track your progress and treat yourself: did you stick to your plan? If so why not reward yourself with the latest series or video game with your kids. Congratulations and keep going!

Businesses: what measures should you put in place?

“Different countries follow different practices,” explains Jérôme Goulard, head of CSR, Diversity and Ethics at Orange Business Services. “Like putting messages on hold during non-business hours, disconnecting servers at night and at weekends, displaying a pop-up when using business tools at unusual times… we’re stepping back and considering how useful these measures are to date.”

In France, by law, there are already contracts in place for companies. For example, the agreement signed by Enedis in 2018 introduced controlled connectivity that recognises the right not to be reachable as well as regulation for professional tools especially for sending and receiving emails.    
However, the right to disconnect remains difficult to apply: according to the 2018 Opinionway survey, 23% of French companies have a best practice charter in place for email but only 16% have actual regulation in place.

Before introducing restrictive technical measures, it’s essential to look at the culture and ongoing changes in our working practices in order to encourage certain behaviours
Jérôme Goulard, head of CSR, Diversity and Ethics at Orange Business Services

“Before introducing restrictive technical measures, it’s essential to look at the culture and ongoing changes in our working practices in order to encourage certain behaviours,” continues Jérôme Goulard. “First of all, because appropriate measures have to be adapted to employees’ jobs, work and location as well as the business culture. Next, because certain technical restrictions might end up being counter-productive: for example disconnecting servers isn’t necessarily the sensible thing to do if the business is multinational and teams have to collaborate across different time zones.”

The right to disconnection at Orange

At Orange, we have put in place policies in France and abroad that cover equality and work/life balance and that include the right to disconnect. In particular they state that no employee can be penalised for not having answered messages outside of working hours. They also highlight the role that managers must play in setting a good example.