Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Live in the present: A ban on mobiles in the office


Too often in company offices workers become wasters, more engaged towards scoring high in candy-crush than achieving the best at their work in hand.1 So what is the issue?  We as humans struggle to live in the present. We would often rather procrastinate, reminisce about the past or dream about the future than spend time in the present and take time to grab hold of all that each moment can offer us.
Of course that is not to say that work never gets boring and that the odd distraction is not healthy. But the main issue here - and one that Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) seeks to address – is that living in the present is healthy. And in the context of the workplace a move towards more ‘in the present living’ would see mutual benefits for both employees – who become less susceptible to irrational thinking - and the employers who reap the gains of higher engagement and efficiency.

So for me personally, when I look at ACT and all it has to offer1; a greater focus on mindfulness and ‘present living’ should be honed in on. My interpretation of that concept would be to ban all personal mobile phone usage between working hours in offices. Extreme as that may sound, similar radical measures can already be seen at big corpora
tes,2 with global IT company ATOS banishing all email communications across the business with direct face-to-face or over-the-phone communication being  forcefully encouraged among employees.


So why get rid of personal mobiles? Because smart-phones do not help. The only self that Facebook brings a person closer to is their idealised fictitious self, created to maintain superficial acquaintance-dominated relationships, and following platforms like Twitter encourage the development of para-social relationships in which followers devote much time and energy to someone else, but receive nothing back in return.
So how does ACT fit into this? Well, the time saved from reduced smart-phone procrastination can be guided towards activities relating to mindfulness and self-identification. These will ensure that employees do not lose their heads in the office environment.

How do these activities work? For example, an activity would involve getting employees to realise that the emotions they experience – both positive and negative – are constantly changing… whereas the “you that you call you does not change”3. It would also be emphasize the contrast between the ever-moving types of experiences against the continuity of consciousness itself3.

Exercises like this, while on a deeper level are geared to promote intentional experiential contact with the transcendent of self, would lead to a shift in the ways that employees view themselves, and a culture of employees experiencing life actively in the present and basically getting less distracted.3


1 Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes and outcomes.Behaviour research and therapy, 44(1), 1-25.
2 http://www.forbes.com/sites/tykiisel/2011/11/30/ceo-bans-email/
3 Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and commitment therapy, relational frame theory, and the third wave of behavioral and cognitive therapies. Behavior therapy, 35(4), 639-665.

Alexander Lee

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