The link between technology and stress is becoming more prevalent: at work, at home, in our daily routines, during social interactions. ‘Technostress’ is ‘Real’ and the conditions and symptoms are now widely recognised among health professionals and IT experts.
New technology has had a huge impact on business and job roles. It has influenced where we work, what we do, how we communicate and when we work. There is no doubt that it has been positive for business in many ways, however that can come at a cost to our health if not managed in the right way. The increased use of new technology and multiple communication channels has lead to people experiencing ‘overload’ as they work longer hours and engage with new devices. People feel an ‘invasion’ of personal time and space as they are constantly exposed or connected. The complexity of new technology can cause stress if people are constantly having to learn new skills and systems and some may feel their jobs are at risk where new devices can potentially replace them in their role.
All of these situations are having a real impact on employees, which may be Physical, Emotional, Behavioural or more serious Psychological problems.
Physical symptoms may include eye strain, headache, backache, neck pain, increased blood pressure, rapid heart rate, keyboard/ smartphone related injury or RSI.
Emotional aspects may be irritability, short temper, tension, depression, paranoia, frustration, and feelings of isolation or anxiety if separated from devices or lack of connectivity.
Behavioural conditions may be experienced such as insomnia, social withdrawal and uncooperativeness. Individuals may also become increasingly sedentary or adopt unhealthy habits like drinking or smoking.
People experience ‘Technostress’ when they cannot adapt to or cope with information technologies in a healthy manner. Many feel compulsive about being connected and sharing constant updates, feel forced to respond to work-related information in real-time, and engage in habitual multi-tasking.
I’m sure we can all see how our relationship with technology has changed over the last ten years. It will certainly be interesting to see what the future holds for us in the next ten years with even more high technology, automation and artificial intelligence.
If we want to stay in control and use technology in a positive way without the negative impact on our health, we need to manage and adapt our behaviour around technology. At the same time, keep our basic priorities of authentic, purposeful living and maintain human connection. Here are some top tips to help you get the balance right:
- Keep a check on your own use of Tech
Be aware of how much time you spend online or connected both at work and in your personal time. If we are simply switching between screens at work and home, we never really get the ‘downtime’ we need. Our habits change at different times with demands of work or social interactions and it can be easy to lose track of how much time we are typing, scrolling and swiping!
2. Create a schedule
Try to commit to certain times that are screen-free during the day. Maybe you could read a book on your commute or lunchtime or at night. Try to stick to a cut-off time in the evening and hour or two before bed and set aside time for hobbies or interests that don’t involve technology to give your eyes and your mind a rest.
3. Minimise interruptions from devices
Turn off notifications or de-clutter apps from your phone. The presence of multiple tools on our screens with constant alerts means we are always in a state of anticipation for the next update and never truly focused. Give your full attention to one activity at a time and you will probably find you can think more creatively and complete the task in half the time without procrastination.
4. Set boundaries for places
This can be applied at work or home to achieve better balance. Leave your phone on the desk when you go to speak to a colleague or visit the kitchen or bathroom! You can also set boundaries at home and avoid taking the phone to the bedroom, bathroom or the dinner table. Devote your full attention to the task in hand or the company you are in for better outcomes all round.
5. Do some exercise during the day
Taking exercise in the morning or during the day has been proven to increase energy levels and cognition, combat stress and boost immunity. In the winter months it is so important to get outside in the day for a dose of vitamin D and some fresh air. It also gives you a break from screens and thinking space so that you can come back to tasks more focussed and with fresh eyes.
6. Make the most of Remote Working
Working remotely can mean long periods of time in the car, hot-desking, using handheld devices or carrying a laptop and equipment between meetings. All of these things can have an impact on your activity levels, your musculoskeletal health, posture and may put you at risk of injury. Make sure your workstation or driving position is set up appropriately for you, even if in use for short periods of time. Regular activity is essential for good health, so if you are not bound to 9 to 5, set reminders to get outside and do something active during the day.
7. Schedule time to wind down
Use of technology into the evenings can have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep. It is recommended that you avoid screens two to three hours before bed, as blue light can have the biggest impact on circadian rhythms — which can disrupt your sleep cycle.
To help wind down on screen time at the end of the day, you can also set rules for yourself like no phones during dinner, or no email between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Make time for visiting with family and friends, enjoying nature, or finding local activities instead.
8. Check out the Health Apps
If you are going to use tech outside of work, make the most of Apps that promote positive wellbeing. Before you power down your device for the day, consider using a meditation app to get you in the right mind-set. There are some great Apps that can help you meditate, breathe, and relax, all from a mobile device.
With remote working and flexible hours becoming more commonplace, there is an increasing need for individuals to manage their own interactions with technology and adapt behaviours to maintain their wellbeing and performance. Businesses are realising the benefits of supporting their employees with technology and adapting to the changes in working environments and practices.
CK Fitness is working with leading businesses in the field of ‘Digital Wellbeing’ as part of their Corporate Wellness programmes. Sessions focus on –
- Self-awareness of technology use
- Signs and Symptoms of Technostress
- Getting the right balance with Digital
- Exercises for the workplace
- Managing your Health and Wellbeing at work
To find out more about how you can make digital work for you in a positive way and maintain the health and wellbeing of you and your team – contact Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org