… From the desk of Jayne Battey

A couple of weeks ago I took a much needed few days away with two of my sisters to Carmel Valley, California. We did the typical girl-weekend stuff: spa, shopping, yoga, and lots and lots of talking. On our second afternoon there, as we were enjoying downtown Carmel, I realized I’d left my iPhone back at the hotel. While this really didn’t bother me very much (except the small nagging concern that I’d lost the darn thing. Again.),my sisters appeared quite concerned. How would I survive the afternoon without a constant connection to the rest of the world?

Not only did I survive, it was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable afternoons I’ve had in a while. I did not miss being interrupted by two calls that afternoon; I did not miss squinting to check my messages while walking down the sidewalk or waiting for the bathroom, or sneaking a peek at my phone when the lunch conversation lagged for twenty seconds. I fully enjoyed my sisters, the laughter we shared with friends we met for lunch, the sounds and smells and sunshine of Carmel, and the quiet random thoughts running through my brain.

So, this got me to thinking about our work at Miramar Farms and the Executive Retreat Center we are building. How do we get our (often stressed and over-scheduled) guests to understand the value of putting the phone away for much of a day and fully diving in to the time with their team? Here are a few things I’ve learned:

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It’s not really about the phone. But you know this already, don’t you? It’s really about your attitude, about your willingness to put the texting-emailing-googling-tweeting aside and really pay attention to where you are and who you are with, and to devote yourself fully to the time you’ve committed to yourself and your team. You might even get a moment or two to let your mind wander, and who knows what crazy, amazing, innovative thinking might come from that.

You and your team need a break now and again. I see it with all of our clients—corporate America is generally exhausted. And why shouldn’t we be? We are constantly connected and processing information; and the expectation has become, in both our personal and work life, instantaneous response. The value of a retreat is largely in the break we give ourselves from the constant adrenaline rush of the pinging and vibrating and marimba of our phones. This isn’t just attitude, it is science, and numerous medical studies testify to the stress and distraction cell phones bring to our lives. How grateful would your team be if you gave them, in fact insisted, that they take a break from the technology and join you for a day or two, or even just an afternoon, to focus solely on one conversation about the future of your organization?

(So far) Nothing takes the place of real-time, in person, human connection. This is another truth most of us already know. We

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can only go so far with phones, and email, and teleconferencing. These are all great tools, but ultimately we are biological beings with the need to connect on a very personal and human scale. The handshake, the hug, the laughter that erupts from a funny quip or knowing look across the room—these are the things that teams build memories on and grow a culture.

Place matters. And lastly, I have to say something about environment. If you are going to get your team away for the day, and you are going to have them put their phones aside as well, make sure you spend your time together in a place that feeds the human heart and soul. I can’t overstate this: Avoid the windowless hotel conference room at all costs. There are so many options for spaces that connect on a more human level—from farms to historic buildings to community centers to museums. Take the time to find the right fit for your team, so that the time you spend together away from the rest of the world is well worth it. With some good advance planning, they will never even miss their cell phones.

IMG_8284Word of the Day from Wikipedia: Nomophobia is the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. The term, an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone phobia” was coined during a study by the UK Post Office who commissioned YouGov, a UK-based research organization to look at anxieties suffered by mobile phone users.

Jayne Battey, along with her husband, Mark Battey, is the founder and owner of Miramar Farms. Located just north of Half Moon Bay, California, Miramar is a start-up family farm and executive retreat center committed to environmental and organizational sustainability.