Meaningful Connection in a Hyperconnected World

UnPlug @ Critical TechWorks
Happiness at Work Week 2023

Dear All,

Thank you again for attending UnPlug's keynote at Critical TechWorks on 19th September 2023. Below are follow-up links on the background research and tools.  Thanks again to Patricia, Laura and Bea for their assistance in setting up the keynote.   

If you have further questions or are interested in a specific area my contact details are below.  

Kind Regards,

Chris Flack

Chris Flack
Co-founder, UnPlug
T: +353 1 485 2923


Lonely playlist

The Why

Impact – Individual


  • 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.



Impact – Work


  • 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 -



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).

c) If in Portugal please goto or call 22 832 35 35

d) if in Canada, the Red Cross offer a program called "Friendly Calls"

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 / Canada


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


Red Tent Movement (Women)

Men’s Sheds Ireland UK, Canada 
Please email to add your community group to the list! 

·      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 performance, 28(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


Andrii stayed on at the end and had a question about ADHD and whether multi-tasking makes makes it worse.  As mentioned, it's very subjective and the research is still quite new but it is likely ADHD and multi-tasking aren't a great match.  Here's a great article in which Gloria Mark talks about it;


Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

The Lonely Century by Noreena Hertz

Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John T. Cacioppo and  William Patrick

Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect  by Matthew Lieberman

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Billy No-Mates by Max Dickins


Loneliness Explored - Click here

The Lonely Hour - Click here


"We ran a two-day programme with UnPlug to empower staff to upgrade their digital resilience in a hybrid world. Feedback from the team was very positive with key changes being an improvement in their ability to focus and connect with colleagues at work.”
Michael Sylver, Director Programme Management and Support Services Division, United Nations


UnPlug programme assessments in 2020-22 asking the question “can you disconnect after work” showed an average improvement of 30% with direct links to improved productivity and wellbeing.


To view a case study of an UnPlug programme and its impact please click here.


Other services;

Masterclasses (small groups - design thinking, solution oriented) on;

(i) Digital Wellbeing - Individual digital habits with an introduction to frameworks that will sustain them through digital culture.
(ii) Digital Culture – Working with organisational culture / work design to develop communication charters and digital working frameworks to encourage norms and values that will support new Digital Wellbeing habits.

Individual Digital Wellbeing coaching.

Please email for more details.


UnPlug are committed to continually improving our programmes and your suggestions will be taken into account for future training needs. Your feedback is valuable and is much appreciated. To complete our quick feedback survey either click on the following QR code or link;