How to waste a break

Over the course of history, technology has had hugely positive impacts for society. At its most basic, technology is what has afforded you your three flat screen TVs and the ability to travel the world and to live well into your 80s, whereas your distant ancestors lived in a cave and died in their 30s. So let’s not be too harsh on tech. However, the psychological impacts of the recent wave of tech are receiving greater focus, as it is found to disconnect us from the real world and from nature. Modern counteractions include mindfulness and biophilic design. The balancing, restorative and productivity benefits of natural settings have been explored and verified in various studies. However, a new study signposted in a recent blog by Sidewalk Labs, finds that the benefits of nature are only felt when one also removes the technology. In the study of 81 people who took 15-minute breaks in hard landscape and parks, with and without laptops, the group that took breaks without laptops in parks had significantly improved attention and productivity compared with the other groups. Sidewalk Labs were advocating for public tech free space as part of local policy (no Wi-Fi for instance in certain parks), but the findings might stretch further. For office occupiers, there is a clear message that: (a) breaks encourage productivity, (b) providing green spaces both within and outside buildings helps to support that, and (c) a break is not a break if your employees take their phones with them.