With smartphones, tablets, and laptops comprising the primary tools with which many of us do our jobs, employees are increasingly experiencing the effects of managing an “always-on” digital life.
Unfortunately, experts have linked prolonged tech use to insomnia, headaches, carpal tunnel, and neck and shoulder pain – and those are just the physical ailments triggered by excessive digital consumption. With this ever-connected lifestyle, there’s also the threat of creating “cognitive scarcity,” in which an employee’s ability to process information becomes compromised and deteriorates as more informational demands are placed upon them.
Knowing that, here are some helpful tips, both to establish a healthy digital culture in your workplace and to help your employees manage the role of technology in all aspects of their lives.
More Face Time, Literally
A recent study reported that 70 percent of people globally work remotely at least once a week. Recognizing that, it may not be as easy as it once was to pull colleagues together for a face-to-face meeting or whiteboard session. But it is beneficial.
For starters, in-person meetings give your employees a break from multi-tasking across screens and encourage them to focus on a single conversation or subject – that is, of course, if you also make sure to limit the active use of mobile devices and laptops during meetings.
Research has shown that in-person requests are 34 times more effective than sending by email
There’s also a positive effect on team rapport and communication, as research has shown that in-person requests are 34 times more effective than sending by email. And if you really want to take in-person meetings to the next level for your employees, you could even encourage them to consider an occasional walking meeting, too. Freed from the confines of an office or meeting room, walking meetings are reported to boost overall employee health, energy, and inspiration.
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A true work-life balance
Being “on” all the time means that it can be quite difficult for your employees to get into rest mode, and the rejuvenating benefits of a good night’s sleep are being lost to sleepless nights. It’s no wonder why insomnia is one of the most common side effects of excessive screen time.
“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness, and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
To help stem after-hours screen time, facilitate a culture where your employees aren’t expected to send and receive emails around the clock.
To help stem after-hours screen time, facilitate a culture where your employees aren’t expected to send and receive emails around the clock. Contrary to what you might expect, the more flexibility employees are given to establish and set their work schedules, the more likely they are to work more overall hours – including overtime and after hours. As such, having your company’s leadership team create the expectation for healthy downtime can help lessen this pressure to be “on” all the time.
People who try a digital detox emphasize the benefits of unplugging, citing increased productivity, creativity.
Off hours: digital detox
Similarly, you can also educate your employees around the benefits of a “digital detox,” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a break from devices. Most effective as a multi-day break (perfect for a weekend), some people find starting with a 24-hour retreat is more manageable. Whether it’s an entire weekend or just a 24-hour retreat, people who try a digital detox emphasize the benefits of unplugging, citing increased productivity, creativity, and more meaningful connections with loved ones, not to mention better sleep and less aches and pains. In fact, many experts insist you can feel the physiological effects almost immediately when initiating a digital detox.
If your employees can’t quite let go, a “dumb phone” might be a solid option. Despite the insulting name, dumb phones are a great tool for those looking to curtail their screen-time activity, as they’re designed to only make voice calls and don’t offer all the other distractions of smartphones.
By helping to create the conditions for a healthy digital culture in your workplace, the ripple effects will likely carry over into your employees’ personal lives. Because, guess what? After spending some time in analog life, whether it’s a few hours each day or a more extended break, most people report feeling more creative, reconnecting with past interests, and enjoying more quality family time for a better-balanced life.