Mindset

Business psychology services

Business psychology services

Does technology make working life easier or is it a cause of burnout? Technology brings many advantages and yet it can be detrimental to our mental well-being. What separates the two is how the adoption of technology is managed and if we feel able to switch off.

People, Technology & Connectivity

I’m fascinated by the relationship between people and technology. In my previous article, I explored the growing use of workplace technology and the importance of also investing in people. To me, it is necessary to strike a balance and ensure that we avoid overreliance on machines.

There’s no doubt that technology can make life easier. It enables people to access information, upskill and develop. Through technology, systems and processes have been simplified, so we can undertake actions remotely. During lockdown, it prevented the economy from grinding to a halt and fast-tracked remote working.

And yet, the connectivity, flexibility and convenience offered by tech can also be an issue. Workers spend a significant portion of their work hours replying to emails or navigating a multitude of platforms and systems. As a result, they are busy, yet not productive.

What’s more, when we can access information, be contacted or undertake actions at any time of day or night, it’s difficult to disconnect. So, I’d like to ask:

 – Is your free time interrupted by work calls?

 – Do you take devices on holiday to keep on top of work?

 – Does the constant ping of email notifications make it hard to focus?

 – What happens if you don’t promptly respond to these demands?

If you feel that it is near impossible to switch off, you are not alone. Equally, you are not allowing your body and mind the necessary downtime to unwind and recharge. This diminishes your cognitive abilities, impacts health and can cause burnout.

Employees Feel the Pressure to Never Switch Off

In research undertaken by Calm*, 58% of respondents claimed they were always connected. People feel that they need to respond to communications at all times. A quarter felt that being connected meant that work was taking over their personal life. A quarter admitted that constant communication interrupted their work.

The report suggests the sheer variety of technology used in the workplace is an issue. Rather than making individuals more efficient, it can reduce their attention, be a distraction and cause important messages and communications to be missed. Have you assessed if technology is a cause of stress in your workplace?

Emails and ‘Ping Dread’

In another report, created by the Business Disability Forum**, a term referred to as ‘ping dread’ is raised. It highlights the sheer volume of emails being sent each day and suggests that 3 hours of an employee’s daily routine is simply spent sending messages.

Now, it’s far quicker to send an email than to call or write a letter. As a result, emails are overused and not all are necessary. The report suggests that many emails are sent purely to prove that an individual is busy. As such, our email habit is a drain on time and efficiency.

Email overload causes overwhelm and anxiety. Notification pings are a constant interruption through the working day, and often into the evening. When you are responding to one email and hear the pings of more coming through, it’s difficult to stay focused. And yet, if you turn notifications off to concentrate on a task, do people complain that you were not available? It’s easy to see how this constant demand for your attention can cause stress and, eventually, burnout.

How to Avoid Burnout

Burnout results in underperformance, absenteeism and resignations, so it’s best avoided. The solution is to create a balance where the advantages of technology are embraced, but potential issues are avoided. For employers and employees, that means setting boundaries and taking back control.

  1. Firstly, the company policy should detail core working hours and times when it is acceptable to switch off. During the downtime, turn off notifications and allow calls to go to voicemail. People will soon get used to the fact that you are not going to reply to an email out of hours.
  2. Secondly, employers should encourage time away from tech in the working day. An easy option is to introduce a ‘no eating at desks’ policy. In addition, why not organise a weekly lunchtime walk and provide a tech-free break-out room? As an employer, ensure you take breaks, ideally get moving and get some fresh air.
  3. Thirdly, encourage employees to check emails just two or three times a day. This will improve concentration, creative and critical thinking and productivity. The whole point of technology is to undertake routine tasks, so we can focus on areas where the human brain excels.
  4. Finally, put in place plans to cover employees’ workload when they take annual leave. Then employees can use ‘out of office’ to direct urgent communications to a designated colleague. If possible, leave the laptop at home. If that’s a step too far, allocate a block of time to work and turn everything off at all other times.

Switch On, Switch Off

When we switch on technology, it has the potential to streamline processes, open up opportunities and scale operations. However, this is only sustainable when we learn to switch off and dedicate our time and energy to other pursuits. Find the balance and don’t let digitally enabled work environments become a distraction or a cause of burnout.

* https://business.calm.com/resources/guides/2024-voice-of-the-workplace-report/

** https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/knowledge-hub/resources/pingdread/

 

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