In today's age of constant connectedness, digital wellness is more important than ever.
Each day, people are glued to screens for work, shopping, communication with friends and family, and relaxation in front of the TV. And as the pandemic presses on, that digital connectedness is essential.
But that much screen time can also make you want to throw your devices out the window. Overuse of this technology can cause eyestrain, sleep disorders, stress, anxiety and isolation.
Digital wellness refers to both helping individuals achieve proper balance in their lives and the technology used to support physical and mental health.
Employee well-being is directly connected to employee engagement. Workers who can fully relax away from the job will most likely return to work rested and ready to be productive.
Why is digital wellness in the workplace important?
In the era of remote work, technology is both a blessing and a distraction. Programs such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams help keep a digital workforce connected. But they can also lead to an employee's attention being pulled in many directions at once.
While few employees would say workplace meetings are their favorite part of the day, in a physical office they are a chance to disengage with technology for a while. It's a chance to meet with others in person and maybe take some notes by hand.
But as people work from home, they continue to stare at a screen through Zoom meetings and perhaps perform other tasks while on the call. They might answer emails or continue work on a project while the meeting is in progress. This can create disengaged employees in meetings and even a subpar quality of work.
Employees can also sometimes find it difficult to disengage from work after their workday is over. Gone are the days of a 9-to-5 workday and leaving work at work. The line between work and home life continues to blur as work email and communication apps can be loaded into smartphones and tablets. This makes it easy for workers to answer email and messages late into the night. Some remote employees even have workstations set up on the dining room table or a desk in the living room.
With all these tools right at their fingertips, some workers can feel compelled to get work done at all times of the day or night. This can cause burnout because they no longer experience the separation of work and home lives.
Learn about some of the advantages and disadvantages of remote work here.
Digital wellness tips
Here are 10 digital wellness tips for businesses and employees to implement today.
1. Use time management apps
Many time management tools exist to help technology users control how much time they spend on a given task. Programs such as RescueTime analyze how users spend their time online and offer suggestions for better time management. Some also offer the option to block sources of distraction such as social media.
Android users can take advantage of Google's Digital Wellbeing app to monitor how much time they spend on various websites or apps. The app also enables users to automatically disable sites and apps that might be causing distractions after an allotted amount of time.
2. Address and prevent eyestrain
The glare and blue light from screens can lead to poor sleep, especially for those who like to use their tablets or phones right before bed. Special glasses that block blue light are available, as well as apps such as F.lux and Eye Pro. Both are available for Windows and Mac operating systems.
F.lux is a free program that pinpoints a user's location to automatically adjust their computer screen's lighting to something more appropriate for the time of day. For example, it will make the screen brighter and whiter during the day, but warmer and softer at night to match indoor lighting.
Eye Pro is another free program with customizable settings that pops up notices reminding users to blink. Staring at a screen for long periods of time tends to correspond with less blinking, which can lead to eyestrain. This app also reminds users to take breaks at preset intervals so that they can rest their eyes and help prevent eye fatigue.
3. Use mindfulness and digital well-being apps
Mindfulness app Headspace -- available for both iOS and Android -- bills itself as a "personal trainer" to teach users mindfulness practices. It does this through daily 10-minute guided meditation sessions to help users improve their focus, reduce stress and rebalance.
There are also apps designed to help users break bad habits and establish healthy ones, such as Streaks; Wakeout, which provides thousands of 30-second workouts that can be done at home; and Plant Nanny, which gamifies water intake by having users tend to a digital plant by logging their own real-life water intake.
4. Establish digital boundaries
Maintaining a solid work-life balance is essential to good employee health. This balance becomes even more important in a world with instant communication.
In February 2022, Belgium passed several labor reforms, including a provision allowing workers to opt for four-day workweeks, and another granting employees the right to disconnect. Under the new laws, employees are allowed to ignore work-related phone calls and messages when they are not at work.
In regions where no such laws exist, employers should still be respectful of their employees' time. Remind employees not to check work email when they're not on the clock. And encourage them not to contact one another on work matters while off the clock -- except for urgent issues that can't wait until regular work hours. If necessary, tell employees that they are free to set job-related phone notifications to silent or "do not disturb" during off hours.
Read reactions to a four-day workweek here.
5. Encourage employees to integrate activity into their workstations
Whether in a physical office or a home office, sitting for hours at a time is hard on the body. In either scenario, businesses should encourage employees to move around in whatever way suits them. Maybe this means using an under-the-desk pedal exerciser or a standing desk. Or it could be something as simple as getting up every hour to take a short walk around the house or office.
For employees who might get so engrossed in their work that they simply forget to move around, a Fitbit might be useful. Most models have a feature that makes the wristband vibrate at a certain time if the wearer still needs to meet a certain number of steps in an hour.
6. Help employees unwind and disconnect
Businesses that still have a physical office space might consider creating a break area where employees can decompress. Perhaps this is a quiet reading nook stocked with books and magazines to give workers a comfortable spot to relax during lunch. Or maybe it's something more involved, such as a pingpong table for a friendly competition.
7. Remind employees to use company health benefits
Be sure to encourage employees to take advantage of on-site gyms or reimbursement for gym memberships if your company offers it. This will help them disconnect and meet their fitness goals.
Mental health is just as important as physical, so also make sure employees are aware of any relevant benefits offered directly through the company or health insurance.
8. Limit digital meetings
Meetings can lower employees' productivity and increase their stress. Often, sending an email or a message through an app such as Teams or Slack can be just as effective and less of an interruption to an employee's day. Try not to put employees into positions where they need to neglect important work duties to attend unnecessary meetings.
9. Remind employees to leave work at work
It is vital to employees' health that they make time for themselves and don't spend all their time away from work worrying about projects. Encourage them to spend time with friends and family, and to engage in hobbies so that they can return to work rejuvenated.
10. Give employees proper training to learn new technology and equipment
Some employees are going to adapt to workplace changes more easily than others -- and that includes the adoption of new technology and practices. Don't bombard employees with new equipment and technology they need to learn and expect them to master it by the next day. This will only lead to failure and disappointment for everyone.
Instead, set employees up for success by introducing changes gradually, ensuring that they have the necessary training. Also be sure they know whom to ask for help if they need it.