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A practical guide to putting down your smartphone| GuyWhoKnowsThings

Last May, Fabuwood, a kitchen cabinet manufacturer in Newark, instituted a new company policy: No phones allowed during meetings.

To enforce this measure, the company installed “device shelves” outside each of its six glass-walled conference rooms. On a recent Wednesday morning, there were lively meetings in three of the conference rooms, and the shelves outside were filled with '90s-style smartphones, tablets, and flip phones. The company, with 1,200 employees, pays the cost of a folding phone to employees who give up their smartphone and 80 people have accepted the offer.

Surprisingly, employees say they like it. Rena Stoff, a project manager, said that while she initially hated the idea of ​​being deprived of her smartphone, she discovered that it had made meetings, which she previously considered boring and unnecessary, attractive and productive.

“Having my phone away has almost made my brain more open to information,” he said.

Fabuwood founder and CEO 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 carpal tunnel symptoms in his hands from almost constant use of his BlackBerry. He said he slept better, felt more productive at work and had more meaningful communications. 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, Epstein asked Fabuwood managers how often their workers spoke on the phone; They estimated two hours per day on average. He asked a warehouse security officer, whose job generally involves monitoring unsafe conditions, to secretly document every time he saw an employee using a phone in the office. Epstein said many of the company's worst-performing businesses were on the list.

Epstein decided to fight devices that compete for his employees' time and attention with a ““InFocus” Initiative, asking workers to keep their personal devices out of sight while at work. No one is punished for violating the rule, but managers will send email reminders when they notice any setbacks.

There was some grumbling when the initiative was proposed, with some predicting people would quit. But that didn't happen, Epstein said. In contrast, those who performed poorly improved. “Within six months, productivity had increased 20 percent,” he said, citing internal corporate metrics.

What surprised him most, he said, was the constant stream of messages from employees saying the program was changing their lives.

I learned about Fabuwood's initiative after I published an article about fighting my own iPhone addiction. switch to a foldable phone for a month. Abraham Brull, software development manager at Fabuwood, emailed me that he had struggled with his dependence on smartphones in the past and that it had helped him join a company that encouraged healthier use of the phone. technology.

Yours was among hundreds of emails I received. Many were flip phone enthusiasts who disagreed with my suggestion that using a “dumb phone” indefinitely was not an option. Longtime flip phone users of all ages and professions said their lives were better without smartphones and that their marriages, their relationships with their children, and their mental health had flourished as a result.

Alba Souto, 29, from Spain, said not having a smartphone had made her relationship with her husband, who also switched to an old Nokia, “more mysterious and exciting”.

“Not having access to each other at all times through messaging apps has improved the quality of the time we spend together,” he wrote in an email. “We have more to talk about.”

“I love it,” wrote Christopher Casino, 29, of Brooklyn, who in October moved to a cat flip phone That gives you access to Uber, Maps and Spotify, but not social media or news apps. “I do my hobbies more consistently. I read on the subway. I talk more with my husband. “I don’t feel the overwhelming pressure to know everything instantly and say the perfect thing online.”

Sarah Thibault, 43, an artist from Los Angeles, said she planned to participate in “Folding phone February”, an idea I proposed to follow Dry January. She was inspired give up your smartphone a viral video of a multitude of phones ringing in the new year in Paris.

She created a foldable phone in February. community on Reddit to share messages and tips with other participants. I joined and posted a link to a contest that Siggi's yogurt recently Announced 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 had entered the contest.

Veteran flip phone users advised newbies to “search for information” before leaving home, carry a pen and notebook, and warn friends, colleagues, and family about the decision to stop using smartphones.

My own advice is to consult the Dumb Phone Finder see the options on the market; Sun ray 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) their network supports.

You may also need to get other technology to fill the gaps. I turned to a digital alarm clock I bought in high school in the '90s. (It still works!) Kelin Carolyn Zhang, a product designer who runs an annual smartphone detox, wrote that she was using an old digital camcorder this year. to TikTok your way through the foldable phone journey.

Those making the switch be warned: There have been quite a few complaints in my inbox about our increasingly smartphone-centric world.

“The issue that concerns me most, and that I would like journalists and regulators to pay attention to, is the increasing need to have a smartphone to navigate daily life,” wrote a 47-year-old father with no cell phone. “Ten years ago, not having a phone posed some minor social challenges; Nowadays, it can be difficult to live a normal life.”

He has been 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 directed people to pay via smartphone.

“I just got a parking ticket this week because I couldn't log in and pay using their QR code or app,” wrote a 31-year-old Missouri mom with a flip phone. But she said she was worth it.

“Even then I wouldn't go back to the smartphone. “I am tired of being enslaved by a piece of technology that has stolen attention from me and my children,” she wrote. “Your parenting 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 you can do is throw your smartphone in the bathroom, even for a little while.”

(But don't 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 corporate executive and mother of three, said they “could never go crazy.”

“The invention of the smartphone has enabled work-life integration in ways I couldn't imagine!” she wrote.

He said his tricks to make it less addictive included turning off notifications and deleting social media apps. She and others thanked me for pointing out A study which found that switching a smartphone from color mode to grayscale mode helped people significantly reduce their screen time. “I'm excited about the grayscale tip,” she wrote, “turning that on today!”

For those wondering, I've been using my flip phone as my primary phone for two months. But I did get a second line to use with my smartphone when internet access is a necessity. I'm not sure, for example, I would have been able to find the Fabuwood headquarters, on unknown roads in the Newark industrial area, without it.

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