University of Cambridge - UnPlug keynote debrief
"Meangingful Connection in a Hyperconnected World"

Firstly, a big thank you to Tyler Shores and the team at both the Thinklab and Pitt Building for facilitating the talk.


Please note we are updating our website in the next month so the below is in a simple format.  If there are any areas of content you’d like more information on please email  For updates feel free to follow Chris Flack on linkedin (here)


Keynote notes;


Lonely playlist


The Why


Impact – Individual

Harvard Grant Study – Social Connection is the #1 predictor of life satisfaction


Loneliness makes you 26% more likely to die;

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Baker M, Harris T, Stephenson D. Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2015 Mar;10(2):227-37. doi: 10.1177/1745691614568352. PMID: 25910392.


References to multiple studies showing link to improving recovery from Cancer


Impact – Work

Article with links to studies showing improvement in wellbeing, performance and retention


Microsoft Work Index showing positive impact of strong work relationships

The way we work


Screens vs in-person

First review of the largest current longitudinal study on workplace loneliness with the following quote;

“Neuroscience research has found that only in-person interactions trigger the full suite of physiological responses and neural sychronisation required for optimal human communication and trust, and that digital channels such as video conferencing disrupt our process of communicative information.”

Knight, C., Olaru, D., Lee, J.-A., & Parker, S. (2022, May 2). The loneliness of the hybrid worker. MIT Sloan Management Review. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from




Societal awareness

·      Loneliness a bodily function, just like hunger

·      1/3 of people in the western world are lonely –

·      It has a major impact on individuals, organisations and society (can lead to polarisation)

·      How to spot the signs i.e.. awareness of loneliness loop – Quote from Brene Brown – “When we feel isolated, disconnected, and lonely, we try to protect ourselves.  In that mode, we want to connect but our brain is attempting to override connection with self protection.  That means less empathy, more defensiveness, more numbing, and less sleeping……Unchecked loneliness fuels continued loneliness by keeping us afraid to reach out”.  Key research on the loneliness loop; Louise C. Hawkley, Ph.D., John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D., Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Volume 40, Issue 2, October 2010, Pages 218–227,


Individual Change

·      Brain Health – Exercise and Rest (sleep / meditation / quiet time) can help reorient reward centres to more healthy behaviour.

·      Connect with yourself


1)    Recommended meditation (Chris Flack teaching a meditation via the free app Insight Timer) –

2)    Recommended learning (retreats) UK – Ireland

3)    Recommended learning (books) – Conor Creighton – The Truth about Love

4) Recommended apps – DailyHaloha is a great app to encourage reflection and empathy


·      Be kind to yourself

If you feel lonely find someone to talk to about it. Remember you are not alone, many people feel lonely, if no-one is available to chat then; 

a) if in the UK, lots of resources listed at

b) if in Ireland goto (a free, anonymous, 24/7 messaging service providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support). 

If seeking professional help, research suggests that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a good place to start.

·      Individual change – Self Worth

If you think your friend /colleague is lonely

Try not to ask them if they want help 

Ask them to help you


·      Self Worth – A framework; volunteering

UK / Ireland


·      Self Worth – A framework; community groups ( is a good resource and below are some examples)


·      Digital Habits

Social Media impact on mental health – Meier, Adrian & Reinecke, Leonard. (2021). Computer-Mediated Communication, Social Media, and Mental Health: A Conceptual and Empirical Meta-Review. Communication Research. 48. 1182–1209. 10.1177/0093650220958224.


·      iPhone Effect study

Misra, S., Cheng, L., Genevie, J., & Yuan, M. (2016). The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices. Environment and Behavior, 48(2), 275–298.


·      Increase friction with tech – Have an “UnPlug Zone” for small periods of time in certain rooms. For example, no devices in certain meetings.


·      Decrease friction with humans –  Try to remove all friction eg even airpods when walking passed others to enable a more open connection.

UnPlug has a Digital Resilience assessment available here (check your organisation’s ability to cope with increasing digital demands)



Organisational Change


·      Organisational framework for change

Importance of “togetherness” in company culture

For example,

If you build it, they might come e.g. free food in the canteen

If they build it, they will come e.g. cooking classes for teams each quarter

·      Firefighters that make food and eat together outperform colleagues

Kniffin, K. M., Wansink, B., Devine, C. M., & Sobal, J. (2015). Eating Together at the Firehouse: How Workplace Commensality Relates to the Performance of Firefighters. Human performance28(4), 281–306.

·      Encourage Collaboration  – Atlassian Performance Review based on Collaboration

·      Encourage Kindness – Cisco People Deal

·      Importance of weak ties,a%20greater%20sense%20of%20belonging.t

Thanks for attending.   Along with this subject, UnPlug run evidence-based programmes, coaching and advisory services on the following;

Digital Resilience in an Always-on World

Introduction to Digital Wellbeing with key techniques to work smarter in an always-on world.

Switching Off and Recharging in a Distracted World

Taking effective breaks both inside and outside the office.

Work Design Digital Culture to Enhance Engagement

With potential ”Right to Disconnect” legislation, this programme gives an introduction as to the organisation can review and develop “Digital Culture” (how we work collectively with technology).

Managing Family Screen Time

How to manage the blurred boundaries between work and family when remote working.