Last May, Fabuwood, a Newark kitchen cabinet manufacturer, instituted a new company policy: No phones are allowed during meetings.
To implement it, the company installed “device shelves” outside each of its six glass-walled conference rooms. On a recent Wednesday morning, bustling meetings took place in three of the conference rooms, and the shelves outside were stocked with smartphones, tablets and ’90s-style flip phones. The 1,200-person company takes covered the cost of a flip phone for employees who give up their smartphones, and 80 people responded to the offer.
Surprisingly, employees say they love it. Rena Stoff, project manager, said that although she initially hated the idea of being without her smartphone, she found that it made meetings – which she once found boring and pointless – engaging and productive.
“Having the phone away from me almost made my brain more open to information,” she said.
Fabuwood founder and chief executive Joel Epstein was motivated by his personal belief that smartphones are “destroying our personal and professional lives.”.”
He started using a flip phone seven years ago after developing symptoms of carpal tunnel in his hands from near-constant use of his BlackBerry. He said he slept better, felt more productive at work and had more meaningful communications. Mr. Epstein, a Hasidic Jew, said his choice of device was not unusual in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, which encourages the use of “kosher phones” with limited Internet access.
Last year, Mr. Epstein questioned Fabuwood executives about how often their employees were on the phone; they estimated an average of two hours per day. He asked a warehouse safety manager, whose job is usually to monitor unsafe conditions, to secretly document every time he saw an employee using a phone in the office. Mr. Epstein said many of the worst-performing companies made the list.
Mr. Epstein decided to fight the devices competing for his employees’ time and attention with a ““InFocus” initiative, asking workers to keep their personal devices out of sight while working. No one is punished for breaking the rule, but managers will send email reminders when they notice backsliding.
Some complained when the initiative was proposed, with some predicting people would give up. But that didn’t happen, Mr. Epstein said. Instead, the bad performers got better. “In six months, productivity increased by 20 percent,” he said, citing the company’s internal metrics.
What surprised him most, he said, was the constant stream of messages from employees saying the program was life-changing.
I learned about Fabuwood’s initiative after posting about overcoming my own iPhone addiction by switching to a flip phone for a month. Abraham Brull, head of software development at Fabuwood, emailed me to say that he had previously struggled with his smartphone addiction and that it helped him join a company that encouraged healthier smartphone use. technology.
His was one of hundreds of emails I received. Many came from flip phone enthusiasts who disagreed with my suggestion that using a “dumb phone” forever was not an option. Longtime flip phone users of all ages and professions said their lives were better without a smartphone and that their marriages, relationships with their children, and mental health flourished as a result.
Alba Souto, 29, from Spain, said not having a smartphone had made her relationship with her husband, who also opted for an old Nokia, “more mysterious and exciting”.
“Not having access to each other at all times through messaging apps has improved the quality of time we spend together,” she wrote in an email. “We still have things to say.”
“I love it,” wrote Christopher Casino, 29, of Brooklyn, who moved in October to a cat flip phone this gives it access to Uber, Maps and Spotify, but not social media or news apps. “I’m practicing my hobbies more consistently. I read on the subway. I talk to my husband more. I don’t feel the overwhelming pressure to know everything instantly and say the perfect thing online.
Tips for “Flip Phone February”
Sarah Thibault, 43, an artist in Los Angeles, said she was considering participating in “Flip Phone February,” an idea I proposed to follow Dry January. She was inspired abandon your smartphone a viral video of a crowd of telephones ringing the New Year in Paris.
She created a flip phone in February community on Reddit to share messages and tips with other participants. I joined and posted a link to a competition this yogurt from Siggi recently announcement offering $10,000, flip phones, smartphone safes and, of course, free yogurt to 10 people who commit to a month-long digital detox. The company spokeswoman told me that 322,935 people entered the competition.
Longtime flip phone users advise newbies to “check things out” before leaving the house, take a pen and notebook, and warn friends, co-workers and family of their decision to go smartphone-free .
My own advice is to consult the Dumbbell search to view options on the market; Sunbeam And Kyocera were popular recommendations from readers. But be sure to check with your carrier to find out which “feature phones” – industry speak for non-smartphones – your network supports.
You may also need to rely on other technologies to fill in the gaps. I turned to a digital alarm clock I’d bought in college in the ’90s. (It still works!) Kelin Carolyn Zhang, a product designer who goes on a smartphone detox every year, wrote that she was using an old digital camcorder this year to be able to TikTok in its own way through the flip phone journey.
Those making the switch be warned: There have been many complaints in my inbox about our increasingly smartphone-centric world.
“The problem that bothers me the most, and that I would like journalists and regulators to focus their attention on, is the ever-increasing need for a smartphone to navigate daily life,” wrote a father from 47 years. no cell phone at all. “Ten years ago, the lack of telephone meant small social challenges; These days it can be difficult to lead an ordinary life.
He is frustrated by the now common use of QR codes to access sporting events and view restaurant menus. He and many others said payment machines in parking lots often trick people into paying via smartphone.
“I just got a parking ticket this week because I couldn’t go online and pay through their QR code or app,” wrote a 31-year-old Missouri mom with a flip phone. But she said it was worth it.
“Even in these moments, I would not go back to the smartphone. I am done being enslaved to technology that has robbed me and my children of my attention,” she wrote. “Your child-rearing years are short. Your children NEED YOU. Do you want to be a good mom? Do you want to raise healthy children? The best thing to do is to flush your smartphone down the toilet, even for a short time. »
(But don’t actually flush your smartphone down the toilet. You may need to connect it to Wi-Fi at some point to get a two-factor authentication code.)
Some readers, like a business executive and mother of three, said they “could never turn around.”
“The invention of the smartphone enabled work-life integration in a way I couldn’t imagine!” she wrote.
She said her tips for making it less addictive included turning off notifications and deleting social media apps. She and others thanked me for highlighting a study which found that switching a smartphone from color to grayscale mode helped people significantly reduce their screen time. “Excited about the cutting edge of grayscale,” she wrote, “I’m turning it on today!” »
For those wondering, I’ve been using my flip phone as my primary phone for two months now. But I got a second line that my smartphone can use when internet access is a necessity. I’m not sure, for example, that I would have been able to find Fabuwood’s headquarters – on unfamiliar roads in industrial Newark – without it.