Research has shown that an over-dependence on technology negatively affects six key areas – sleep, obesity and physiological health, mental wellness, social relationships, ddistraction and safety and productivity. Of course, recent advances in technology can also help aid many of these areas – particularly when apps, programming and super-fast broadband can inarguably make us more efficient and productive. But in spite of the epic technological progress over recent decades, we’ve actually noticed a dramatic fall in productivity in many developed countries, including those at the forefront of innovation like the USA and the UK.
Lucy Faulks co-founder of Elevate (www.elevateyourhealth.co.uk) and author of technotox.com gives her thoughts on why new groundbreaking technology isn’t translating into higher productivity and shares her tips to help employees better manage their relationship with their digital devices.
‘I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at a time when employees have 24/7 access to emails on their smart phone and an ‘always on’ culture is encouraged, that levels of chronic stress and anxiety are at an all-time high’ says Lucy. ‘Staff who aren’t getting proper down time never feel fully disengaged from work or their duties which can lead to emotional exhaustion, affecting both focus and productivity. Employers should look to our French allies for inspiration where a new law introduced last year requires companies with more than 50 employees to establish hours when staff should not send or answer emails. This aims to prevent burnout by protecting employees’ private time. In smaller enterprises, the senior leadership team should lead by example and ensure they don’t send or answer emails after 7pm or on the weekends.’
It’s not just stress and anxiety affecting the productivity of our businesses. Our addiction to digital provides the ultimate distraction from work – whatsapp groups, Instagram, google searches, holidays, news bulletins, memes, chats, anything to pull our focus away from what we’re doing and having a perverse affect on productivity. We end up being at work, but not actually ‘being present’. But without instigating a strict phone ban at and risking a mass uproar (even exit) from staff, what can employers do to reduce these distractions and encourage colleagues to have less dependency on their devices?
Lucy shares her top three tips;
- Put phones at the centre of the table during meetings. This is a great place to start encouraging discipline and detachment from digital devices. No one needs to look at their phone during a face-to-face meeting, so remove the temptation and ask employees to notice when they have an urge to check their digital devices. Recognising this urge, allows employees the space to notice their dependency and hopefully make smarter choices around acting on these impulses outside of the meeting room.
- Offer staff an introduction to mindfulness workshop. Mindfulness is all about observation, being fully present in the moment and noticing distractions more readily. The more you practice it, the more readily you become aware of distractions and can make conscious choices around how you respond to them. Research has shown that a regular mindfulness practise improves focus and productivity, as well as reducing stress levels. This is why companies such as Google, Goldman Sachs, Ford, Facebook and American Express all offer their staff regular mindfulness meditation.
- Use tech in positive way to boost activity levels. We know that exercising during the working day has been shown to boost mental focus and performance. Instigating team Fit Bit challenges for example, is not only a great way to get your workforce fitter and more active, but also to boost team morale and ultimately improve focus and performance.
Elevate offer workshops and consultancy around physical, mental and emotional wellbeing to businesses across the UK and Europe. This includes mindfulness, tech-life balance and productivity workshops, plus drop-in meditation sessions. For more information contact [email protected] www.elevateyourhealth.co.uk.