- A US-based team at the Tour de France told Business Insider that it has banned cellphone use at the dinner table, including use by the riders and staff.
- The idea is to get the team to be more in the moment, and the riders are actually OK with it.
- Experts say using our phones too much takes us out of the “flow state” and hurts productivity.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
BRUSSELS – The US-based Tour de France team EF Education First has barred its riders from using their cellphones at the dinner table, so for the next three weeks it’s a return to analog chat rooms.
“It was the team directors’ idea, but the riders bought into it,” Jonathan Vaughters, the team’s CEO, told Business Insider. “They were, like, ‘Yeah, you know, we shouldn’t be on our phones at the table. We should be talking.’ So they agreed to make it a rule. It was communal rule making – true democracy.”
The ban isn’t for all races, just the big ones, and the biggest of them all is the Tour, which starts here Saturday.
Perhaps surprisingly, the riders are OK with it.
“It’s not a true ban – more of an unwritten rule,” Michael Woods, EF’s Canadian climber, said. “Like, if you show someone pictures, that’s fine, but don’t be scrolling mindlessly, as in any social scenario. It’s like when you go to a restaurant and you see two people and they’re just staring at their phones. Ugh.“
Woods added: “We’re already on our phones after the race, in the hotel room, so it’s nice to unwind and not be connected in that meal time particularly. It’s so good for team bonding. It’s good to not be on the phone and not be separated like that.
“Some of our neo-pros, they pull out the phones mid-meal and they get cussed out. It’s, like, ‘What are you doing?”
Experts on cellphone use say using our phones too much distracts us from being present and in the moment. In fact, spending too much time on social media, constantly receiving notifications, and sleeping near your smartphone could hurt productivity.
“Productivity is often at its apex during a flow state” – when a person is fully immersed in an activity – New York-based psychotherapist Jordana Jacobs told Business Insider. Phones take us out of the flow state.
Time magazine also reported that phone use during meals leads to a modest but noticeable decrease in diners’ enjoyment, according to research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
‘Corner of quiet’
The EF team actually tries to avoid being too formal in its rules and regulations, because it’s found that just hasn’t worked, Charly Wegelius, one of EF’s sports directors, told Business Insider.
“It’s just awareness from our side that the days at the races are getting more and more complex,” he said. “You have little groups of people going off and doing things – often you don’t see each other for the whole day. And the number of people, especially at races like this, is getting bigger.
“And like all people in the world, we’re all connected now,” Wegelius added. “Everything goes through your telephone: private life, social life, but also work-related. Everything’s just coming through there. The noise is super loud. We just felt the need to eek out a little corner of quiet.”
Woods’ teammate Simon Clarke, of Australia, said it really just comes down to etiquette and good manners.
“It’s like eating with your mouth open,” he said. “At dinner, you try not to use your phone. If someone rings you, you answer it and try to tell them to call you back.”
“We normally have good conversations at the table, so using phones isn’t normally an issue,” Clarke added. “JV is a smart guy, so I’m sure he appreciates not only the physical attributes of riders but also personalities, and intellect is, to some extent, an appealing factor.”
The sports directors, headed by Wegelius, a Finnish-born Briton, said they talk a lot about how the team is running, including the staff who support the riders. As with any organization, they come up with many ideas to make the team better, and some work out and some don’t.
“Sometimes it works good and sometimes it works bad,” he said. “But it’s like revolvers in the Western bar: The conversation dies at the table for a second and somebody whips out their phone. Then everybody’s got them out.”
Wegelius credits fellow director Andreas Klier, of Germany, for bringing about the phone ban during the spring classic races.
“We’ve found people policing each other in sort of nice way,” Wegelius went on. “People have gotten used to looking at their phones – it’s like a tic or a reflex. My wife calls me out on that when I’m at home. It’s almost mindless, like having a fear of a moment of boredom. Here at the Tour de France, it’s just about looking at each other and being there, instead of being somewhere else.”
For Vaughters, of the US, the ban harks back to his own days as a Tour rider, when he rode in support of Lance Armstrong.
“I remember when I was on US Postal Service, in the Tour de France, the first Tour we won, in 1999, there were no laptops allowed at the race,” Vaughters told Business Insider. “It was, like, ‘Don’t bring your laptops – you needed to focus on the race.'”
“I mean, that’s probably a little too far nowadays. But back then, it was, like, ‘If you want to talk to your wife, call her on the hotel phone. And call her collect.”