How Disconnecting from Technology Boosted Our Team’s Workplace Productivity

By Jodi Walton

As a start-up, constantly innovating helps to set our business apart –  and technology forms a huge part of this innovation.

The Harrison McMillan team relies on the latest technologies day-to-day, from pre-recorded video technology that assists our clients with the interview process, to document sharing platforms and technologies that streamline the application process.

As a society, there is a constant mantra that technology is making our lives at work more productive. But is technology a double-edged sword? And are there situations where it’s actually hindering our workplace productivity?

Some of you may have heard of the increasingly popular term “infobesity”. As a society, our brains are also suffering – from information overload. It’s not that we feel that having easy access to an abundance of information is a bad thing, it’s the type and value of the information that we need to manage.

It was a presentation and a subsequent conversation with neurologist Dr Fiona Kerr last year that really opened our eyes to the infobesity phenomenon and its potential impacts on our team’s productivity.

Dr Kerr is a prominent thought leader who works at the University of Adelaide as Industry Professor, Neural and Systems Complexity. She is a sought-after consultant and speaker in the fields of cognitive neuroscience, human connectivity and the impacts of the technology age.

She spoke with me about the impacts of technology on our brains, including how the constant notifications via our bright and distracting phones, as well as pop-up emails and other notifications throughout the day on our computers, can distract us from the core work we’re engaging in.

Each time we are distracted from our core work by our devices and notifications, it takes our neurons six seconds to reset.

This might not sound like much, but if, like me, you’re receiving emails, texts and other social media notifications constantly throughout the day, this distraction can increase stress and reduce productivity whilst also making us less communicative and less attentive.

As a result of Dr Fiona Kerr’s presentation, in September of last year Harrison McMillan conducted a month-long trial called ‘Disconnect to Reconnect’. We enforced lunch breaks away from the desk, turned off email and other sound and pop-up notifications on our devices, and only checked our emails at three set times per day. We also created space for “deep” work and opted for more in-person meetings, as well as walking meetings.

We found that these changes resulted in higher productivity – an increase of approximately 15% – and a reduction in stress.

Our team felt more energised and focused, and our one-month trial has become a permanent approach to taming technology at work. Instead, we now remember to step away from the desk and communicate face-to-face when possible.

We’re very interested and excited by Dr Kerr’s ongoing research in this area, so we’ve teamed up with her this Open State festival.

On the morning of Thursday, October 5, join Dr Kerr and myself for a light breakfast and a talk on the topic “When is Human Better? Taming Technology at Work”.

Dr Kerr will share her latest research in this space and I’ll talk more about Harrison McMillan’s experience as a business. We’d love to see you there!


To find out more about Harrison McMillan’s innovative approach to recruitment, visit

Jodi Walton is the co-director of Harrison McMillan, awarded Most Innovative Recruitment Agency of the Year in 2016 at the SEEK Annual Recruitment Awards.