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The Engineer: New year, new habits


February 6, 2020
By David Heska

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Happy new year! I hope that each of our Glass Canada readers had a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Over my Christmas break I was able to celebrate with family, unplug and read a couple of books that had been sitting on my bookshelf. One of the books I read was titled “12 ways your phone is changing you.” The topic peaked my interest and was a great follow-up to a contest we had in our office at the end of last year. A colleague decided to create a non-mandatory challenge titled “No phone November.” Thirty people decided to sign up and compete with one another (and, more importantly, themselves) to see how we could change our habits throughout the month. With the average smartphone user spending over three hours on their phone each day I wanted to learn more about my phone usage, so I joined in.

Before I dive into this topic any further let me ask the question many of you are probably thinking: what does our smartphone usage have to do with the glass industry here in Canada? The answer is, a lot. How productive are the staff in your organization? How distracted are they by the technology in their lives? In the next 20 years, how will technology change the way we manufacture glass? Will our smartphones and laptops be connected to our glazing components so that they can automatically be adjusted depending on weather conditions or manually changed based on user preference? I share these thoughts because we are all living in a technological age in which we are more “connected” to those around us, and yet the statistics show we are more lonely today than in the past.

Phones have become such a critical part of how we do business that it is now difficult to remember how we ever coped in the past without them. But the sword has two edges – we are more productive at work but possibly less engaged and relaxed at home, or even in work settings outside the office where we used to be able to give our full attention to a meeting or a client. Being always on and always available has its price.

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As a result of our office “No phone November” challenge I was able to reduce my smartphone usage to an average of two hours per day. The cumulative result was that our employees spent 70 hours less on their phones in the last week of November compared with the first week. So what did we all do with the extra time in our days? I’m not sure, that wasn’t part of our contest. But I’d bet that whatever we did, it was probably more productive and more satisfying than browsing Twitter or Instagram.

So I’ll repeat a question the author asked in the book I read over the holidays: “The essential question we must constantly ask ourselves in the quickly evolving age of digital technology is not what can I do with my phone, but what should I do with it?” There are numerous ways my life is better today because I have an iPhone in my pocket. But let’s not forget that there are large, publicly traded companies on the stock exchange who’s entire business strategy is to get you and I to spend more time on our devices. Their strategies do not involve having us live more productive lives at work or more fulfilling lives at home with our families.

As we head into 2020 one of the new habits I’m trying to implement is using my phone less between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. each night and to turn it off completely for one day on the weekend. I don’t know what it might look like for you, but let’s raise a glass to the year ahead in which we unplug our phones more in order to better enjoy time with our friends, coworkers and family.


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