The transition to remote and hybrid ways of working has forced employees to find novel ways to manage the competing demands of personal and work-related tools such as email, video calls, social media, messaging apps, and collaboration tools like Slack. Instead of creating an environment where people can focus on their work, remote digitised workplaces encourage continuous engagement and attention from digital users. However, as customers become increasingly connected and expect immediate feedback, this, in turn, leads businesses to invest heavily in digital technologies that support employees by improving collaboration, connectivity and productivity. However, by using digital technologies, that encourage extended periods of attention and engagement, the new digital workplace creates a culture where employees engage constantly with digital information throughout the day.
Today’s close relationship with digital devices even causes some employees to experience emotional and mental challenges as a result of experiencing overwhelm by digital distractions and the psychological consequences of spending multiple hours per day on digital platforms. In fact, recent research shows that prolonged video calling is highly intense and fatiguing. While this is one study, when extrapolated to a global digital workforce numbering in the billions of employees, there is a potentially significant impact on individual and global productivity, and health.
Technology Vendors Influence the Future of Digital Productivity
As the creators of new digital artefacts, technology vendors are increasingly prioritising digital wellbeing in addition to productivity and engagement. Products that have been integrated into the architecture of some of the most commonly used products in the world offer resources that can help us to focus, reduce digital distraction and support positive digitised experiences driven by company and individual values. The same attention to digital wellbeing in remote and hybrid environments should be taken by people responsible for digital environments in the office and at home as the way our environments are constructed has a direct effect on our health and performance.
Vendors are quickly realising that taking digital wellbeing seriously can yield powerful and detailed insights on ways to help employees do their best work. Such insight provides people and institutions alike with information on what constitutes a positive and productive work experience for specific teams – all of which helps current and future employees.
How Individual Employees Control Their Digital Wellbeing
In addition to digital products affecting human wellbeing, employees are finding novel and creative ways to balance competing digital demands whilst protecting their own wellbeing. These behavioural frameworks and tools help employees to exert more autonomy over their day-to-day digitised experience and do much to create positive digitised environments.
Employees who take a strong interest in digital wellbeing:
- Create time for deep work; protect your time and energy by limiting digital distractions and staying present at the moment (e.g., managing notifications, excluding digital distraction from specific places like bedrooms at night, and blocking time for focus)
- Balance digital engagement with time for offline connection: ensuring that intense periods of screen time are balanced with physical activity and face-to-face interactions (e.g., getting outdoors for fresh air, and exercise) is key to a healthful digitised environment.
Digital Wellbeing Resources Are Increasingly Important to Employees
As digital wellness becomes an increasing focus amongst employees and employers alike, resources – like mindfulness apps and wearables to help improve focus and productivity while reducing cognitive load and fatigue — are becoming increasingly important.
In 2021, studies showed that working from home during the pandemic coincided with a sharp increase in the consumption of digital wellness tools to support people’s mental and physical health. Although there are more products than ever focused on digital wellbeing, such as Google’s Digital Wellbeing Portal, Apple with ScreenTime, LinkedIn Learning Courses for digital resilience training or Facebook’s Time Well Spent features, 2022 promises to be an extremely active year for digital wellbeing ecosystems.
Employees are actively adopting digital wellbeing tools to support their productivity, mental health, and fitness journeys. Employees are increasingly prioritising the experience of work in addition to their performance at work, and in many cases look to technology to support that journey.
Building a technology environment that encourages focus and digital resilience
As digital technologies become an integral part of almost every aspect of work life, understanding the effect that digital overload has on employees’ mental health and digital wellbeing is key to creating a positive digital workplace culture. Solving this problem could mean not only improving the digital workplace but also improving employees Employees’ overall mental health. To achieve this, employers should take steps to ensure their digital environment encourages focus and digital resilience. This could include providing digital wellbeing tools and services to employees, such as mindfulness apps and wearables, to help improve focus and productivity while reducing cognitive load and fatigue.
In addition, employers can also use digital workplace tools to measure an employee’s mental health and digital resilience, including digital stress levels. Digital wellbeing tools and services can help employers identify the everyday activities that most likely impact productivity, human wellbeing and overall decrease the positive experience of work. Taking measures like offering a suite of digital wellbeing tools and services can offer employees the potential to identify gaps in personal digital wellbeing and how they affect an individual’s overall mental health.
The metaverse (VR, AR, MR) also offers employers and employees a unique opportunity to enhance presence during remote meetings and reduce the digital stress experienced by those working for long periods on video calls. By immersing employees within digital experiences or allowing people to train for specific tasks without stepping into the shoes of their workers as virtual avatars, this immersion into digital experiences with VR reduces the mental strain caused by the management of multiple information inputs.
In addition, Augmented Reality overlays digital information with real-world environments decreasing the cognitive load associated with the continual switching of attention between devices.
It is clear that with greater immersion in work experience, employers will have more significant opportunities to capture even more granular insight into employee performance and behaviours. Far away from the traditional employee satisfaction surveys, the metaverse will lend itself to personalised work experiences optimised for greater productivity, collaboration or specific targets demanded by the company. This can help employees to find a balance between their digital demands and their overall wellbeing.
Employers must consider how they can create a supportive environment for employees that encourages a healthy balance between productivity and digital wellbeing. In addition to providing employees with digital wellbeing tools and services, employers should also look to create an environment that supports different working styles. For example, allowing employees to work flexibly, providing them with access to ergonomic office furniture, and offering mental health support services are all key components of a supportive digital workplace.
In addition, employers should look to provide employees with training and resources that focus on digital wellbeing. This could include providing employees with the tools and training to help them better manage their digital workload, as well as providing them with tips and techniques to reduce digital stress and fatigue.
Finally, employers should look to create a culture of trust, respect, and communication. This means creating a culture where employees feel supported and encouraged to have open and honest conversations about their digital wellbeing. Employers should also look to create an environment that allows for feedback and collaboration. This could include providing employees with regular performance reviews and feedback, as well as encouraging employees to share their thoughts and ideas on how to improve their digital wellbeing.
By taking steps to create a supportive digital environment that encourages a healthy balance between productivity and digital wellbeing, employers can help create an environment that is conducive to employee satisfaction and engagement. In turn, this can help to improve employee performance and productivity.
Employers can also look to the wider business environment to help create a supportive digital workplace. For example, employers can look to invest in new technologies that enable employees to work more efficiently and productively, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). AI and ML are being used to automate repetitive tasks, enabling employees to focus on higher-level tasks. In addition, AI and ML can be used to provide employees with more tailored insights into their performance, enabling them to make more informed decisions about their digital wellbeing.
In addition, employers should look to create an environment that encourages collaboration and innovation. This could include providing employees with access to collaborative tools, such as group chat, whiteboards, and virtual reality (VR) simulations. Employers should also look to provide employees with access to industry-specific resources and tools to help them stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in digital wellbeing.
Finally, employers should look to provide employees with access to digital wellness programs. These programs are designed to help employees better understand the impact of digital overload on their wellbeing and provide them with tips and techniques to help reduce digital stress. In addition, many digital wellness programs also provide employees with access to mental health and wellness resources to help them maintain a healthy work-life balance.
By taking steps to create a supportive digital workplace that encourages focus and digital resilience, employers can help to ensure that their employees remain productive and engaged, while also promoting their overall wellbeing. This could help to improve employee satisfaction and engagement, leading to increased productivity and performance.
The Challenges of Organisational Wellbeing Technologies
So, implementing wellbeing technology improvements in organizations can be a daunting task because of myriad challenges. In the next article, we’ll look at data privacy concerns to employee resistance, as obstacles that must be overcome to reap the benefits of digital wellbeing tools; the potential to gain a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent, as well as improving the overall health and productivity of the workforce.