Focus & Digital Balance

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Say “goodbye” to constant availability: time-out app Offtime is set to reduce stress

Take Some OFFTIME

Berlin start-up Offtime launches its 1.0 version in collaboration with Humboldt University in Berlin – supported by a study which shows reliable data regarding its positive psychological effects

  • Offtime allows effective unplugging from the smartphone
  • The use of Offtime significantly contributes to a better recovery from work
  • At the same time, positive effects on work motivation are reflected

Berlin, 1st of October 2014. Today for the first time, Berlin start-up Offtime is going live with version 1.0 of its “unplugging” app in the Google Play Store. Already in early May, Offtime introduced a Preview at the re:publica 2014. The official launch is supported by a new work-life-balance study, conducted in cooperation with the Humboldt University in Berlin. This is the first time that reliable data regarding the positive effects of controlled smartphone “offtime” is presented. Co-founder and designer of the app, Michael Dettbarn, says, “we are very excited to go live with the new Offtime. In the last few months, thanks to the feedback we have received from our Preview users, we have continuously improved the app. In addition, he claims “the immediate positive effects from the use of Offtime on a daily basis are also shown by the results of our study at Humboldt University. We could not have wished for a better proof of concept.”

A smartphone is unlocked 63 times a day

The study on work-life-balance, published in autumn, has been conducted within the context of information and communication technologies and developed in collaboration with the occupational psychology area at the Institute of Psychology at Humboldt University in Berlin. Over two weeks, the study analyzed the smartphone usage patterns of 49 participants with an average age of 34 years. Those taking part were required to own and possess an Android smartphone, both used professionally and privately. During the first week of the study, ‘normal’ smartphone usage was tracked: It was found that on average, each phone had been ‘unlocked’ 63 times a day, usually for approximately 2:49 minutes each time. Over this period, communicative functions such as calls, SMS, messenger apps and social networks were the applications predominantly used. In addition, some surprising information came up, such as in the case of one participant, whose use of Whatsapp totaled 35 hours over one week, an average of 7 hours per day. In the second, so-called intervention week, participants used Offtime for at least 2 hours a day.

What does Offtime offer?

The Offtime app enables the conscious filtering of incoming and outgoing communication traffic on your smartphone – whether it be e-mails, calls, SMS or app notifications. All settings can be measured on the basis of a detailed activity overview, which indicates which functions are most frequently used, who you keep up the most contact with and which profiles you enable. Depending on your needs, whether it is time with your partner, more concentrated work or undisrupted free time, with Offtime you can define what is ‘allowed’ and what is not. For example, you can set exceptions such as your spouse, an important business partner or multiple emergency calls. Offtime helps you define communication rules, whilst allowing you to resist the temptation of distracting apps at work and to prioritize your family over your mailbox. In each mode, you can concentrate on life situations that are currently the most important to you.

 A conscious separation of your private and personal life

The study also reflects the positive effects of this clear separation. The use of Offtime not only significantly contributes to mental detachment from work after one week, on average by 8%, but also ensures better leisure time. Prof. Dr. Annekatrin Hoppe, Chair of the study, supports this and claims, “the active “switching-off” from temptations at work is important for active relaxation. Establishing this ‘me-time,’ a conscious time for the self, also leads to higher work motivation; in comparison to the first week, this increased by 5% amongst participants. “In addition, it appears that conscious “offtime” positively affects work, since motivation rises. Consequently, this usually leads to higher productivity.”


OFFTIME Study Results Graphic

OFFTIME Study Results Graphic

Conscious smartphone usage ensures less pressure

Conclusively, the study shows that it depends more on conscious smartphone usage, rather than restricted use or none at all; in addition to this proven trend, it is particularly interesting that as a result, devices are also ‘unlocked’ fewer times. This points to a more reflective approach of usage that is made possible by allowing users to block the smartphone for specific periods, and through information gained with the Offtime “protocol.” It is here that users can view all that happened, or was missed, during their “offtime.” Furthermore, customized absence notifications ensure that nothing is left unanswered. With this, the pressure to be constantly available is minimized and naturally, this leads to less fatigue. This tendency is also shown by the results of the study. Further details will be published by the authors in the coming weeks.

About Offtime

Offtime is a young post-technology Start-up from Berlin. Behind the concept stands the founding team comprised of Alexander Steinhart, Andreas Bernhard, Marc Scherfenberg and Michael Dettbarn, who are committed to the mission of effective ‘unplugging’ in the digital world. They are on the search for sustainable solutions in the age of connectivity. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2013, the app was developed in collaboration with the Institute of Psychology at the Humboldt University in Berlin. After the beta period and the initial four months of Preview, the official Offtime app is now available in the Google Play Store. In cooperation with Humboldt University, the first study was conducted to find out what really helps people successfully ‘unplug,’ as well as to increase work motivation.

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