What Happened to Downtime?

In this digital era, we are losing hold of the few sacred spaces that remain untouched by apps, email and the Internet. When walking between locations, our devices stream data from dozens of sources. Our cars have mobile phone integration and hundreds of satellite radio stations. Even at our bedside, iPads offer oodles of digital apps with the world’s information at our fingertips. Interruption-free space is sacred and downtime is prized. Rarely is there a sense of relief from work, even when at home.

In a 2015 investigation, Hardy A. van de Ven and his research team from the University Medical Center Groningen, NL, were curious about how being “on-call” affected various health indicators. Studying a group of shift workers provided an ideal opportunity to see whether those who were on call reported significantly more issues than their off-call counterparts.

The results of their report, “Need for Recovery among Male Technical Distal On- Call Workers”, suggested this was in fact the case. On-call workers reported poorer sleep patterns, which is significant considering the links between sleep and our overall well-being and performance. Research shows that people who do not get sufficient sleep are at a greater risk for physical health problems, such as obesity and poor immune system functioning.

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Craig Dowden

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Craig Dowden & Associates is a firm focused on supporting clients in achieving leadership and organizational excellence by leveraging the science of peak performance. He is author of Do Good to Lead Well: The Science and Practice of Positive Leadership.

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