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digital wellness (digital wellbeing)

What is digital wellness (digital wellbeing)?

Digital wellness (digital wellbeing) is the use of technology to ensure an employee's physical and mental health. Although workers rely on their digital devices and the internet to perform their jobs, the aim of digital wellness is to design technology in such a way that it promotes healthy use and proactively assists the user to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A common example of technology that can have a negative effect on employees is the overuse of social media during the workday.

However, digital wellness doesn't just mean that employees take time to disconnect from devices. It's a comprehensive way for them to think about how their potential unhealthy relationship with technology affects other aspects of their lives.

Why is digital wellness important?

Digital wellness is important because it enables employees to be more engaged and productive, as well as lead healthier lives during and outside of work. Adopting digital wellness practices can enable employees to focus on their work and cause less exhaustion and distraction. For example, employees who check their mobile device three or four times a day is more productive than those who check their smartphone once every 10 minutes.

Employees who don't pay attention to digital wellness may see negative effects from overuse of technology. This dependency can also increase employees' anxiety and stress levels. If employees suffer from burnout, they're less likely to produce quality work and more likely to see declines in their mental and physical health. Focusing on digital wellbeing enables workers to lessen these risks.

As a response to a call for apps and technology that respect a person's time, some companies are developing features that are less disruptive or adding the ability to turn off distracting notifications. In addition, companies are creating new apps that track digital wellness and keep record of things like amount of screen time spent on different apps. They help the user to lower undesired types of screen time or to be more deliberate about how technology is used.

Examples of digital wellness technology

There are several digital wellbeing applications that can help users better understand their relationships with technology.

For example, some digital wellbeing apps can calculate the number of hours per day employees spend staring at their screens. If an employee exceeds a set time limit, the digital wellbeing app can send an alert letting the user know it's time to take a break.

Additionally, digital wellness tech might include productivity features, such as smartphone silence notifications that enable employees to set their mobile devices to Do Not Disturb. This silences phone calls and all other incoming notifications. The messages and emails that employees receive in this mode are stored in their devices' notification centers.

Google offers a Digital Wellbeing app for Android device users who are aiming to find a balance with technology. For example, Google Wind Down is a feature that flips the screen to grayscale at a specified bedtime and uses the Do Not Disturb mode to silence all notifications, including phone calls. People can use a timer to set limits on how much they use their devices or apps and view detailed information on how they spend time on their phones.

How can companies encourage digital wellness among employees?

As remote work gains popularity and employees spend less time in physical offices, people are challenged with finding a healthy work-life balance.

Consequently, employers can help their workers reach this balance. To encourage digital wellness among employees, companies can set some digital ground rules, including the following:

  • Encourage workers to switch off. Managers can set specific hours that employees need to be available. They can urge co-workers not to contact each other for work-related issues outside this time unless they have urgent matters to discuss. Employees can also switch off notifications on all their devices.
  • Limit communications that aren't critical. Although it's essential for employees, colleagues and managers to communicate, workers' digital wellness is negatively affected when they're swamped with communications, particularly email. This causes unnecessary stress as time is taken from their work to respond to emails and other forms of communication. Since not all these communications are important, employers should encourage workers to limit emails that aren't critical.
  • Reduce online meetings. While video conferencing is necessary in today's digital workplaces, many employees suffer from video call fatigue. Although online meetings can save time and enable employees to connect with their colleagues, they can also be exhausting as employees must be constantly and actively participating. Companies can set aside at least one day a week that is free of meetings to reduce stress.
  • Lower eye strain in frequent device users. Products such as dark panels that cover screens or special lenses that go over glasses to reduce glare have been developed to aid with eye strain. Recommendations also exist for how large information on the screen should be, what settings and resolution should be implemented, how often eyes need to be rested, and what the optimal distance is between eyes and the screen.
  • Be aware of unforeseen mental health impacts. One example of an adverse feature to mental health is the endless scroll addition to social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. This has been attributed to internet addiction, which has been correlated with high levels of anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, poor time management and impulsiveness.
This was last updated in February 2022

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