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Opinion: Digital detox at workplace

www.telanganatoday.com | October 24, 2023

Companies should encourage employees to take breaks from their computers and go for walks to get some exercise
In recent years, the prevalence of technology at the workplace has reached unprecedented levels. The integration of modern technologies like mobile devices, cloud systems and online tools has revolutionised the way we work. Employees can now be constantly connected and accessible, leading to increased productivity and communication efficiency. However, this hyperconnectivity can have negative impacts on an employee’s mental and physical well-being, causing problems such as stress, burnout, back problems and weak eye-sight. Finding a balance between screen time and work performance remains crucial as organisations navigate the depths of the digital ocean. Hence, periodic digital detoxes can be extremely beneficial for individuals and organisations alike.

So, what exactly does a digital detox imply? Digital detox, or tech- detox, is a period when someone intentionally abstains from using computers and other electronic devices to avoid distractions. Examples include setting a time in the day when one avoids work-related communications and engages more in physical conversation (Basu, 2019).

Perils of Excessive Tech

Employees are constantly bombarded with email notifications, social media updates and other digital distractions, leading to them constantly using electronic devices. Overuse of technology has given rise to the phenomenon of ‘technostress’, originally coined in 1984 by Craig Brod, to describe the stress faced by individuals due to IT use and their inability to cope with it (Mirbabaie et al, 2022; Ayyagari et al, 2011). Technostress is known to have far-reaching consequences such as its impact on physical and mental health, causing quality-of-life issues. Several studies have pointed out that stress at workplaces causes lower job satisfaction among employees, lower work productivity and efficiency, along with a decreased commitment to the organisation.

Further, digital overuse can make one feel overwhelmed due to constantly being “on.” They may feel the need to respond to every email, text message and social media post immediately, further leading to digital fatigue. This can also cause feelings of anxiety and burnout. Excessive use of electronics has been linked to difficulty in falling asleep, eventually leading to sleep deprivation and disorders. It can also cause interpersonal issues since individuals spend more time responding to work-related queries than with people in the physical realm.

In some cases, individuals may also develop a relatively new condition called “digital disorder”, characterised by excessive attachment to devices and inability to control one’s use of technology. In addition to psychological problems, some physical issues include eyestrain, dry eyes, blurred vision and pain in various parts of the body.

Impact of Covid

Since the Covid pandemic, digital overload has become the new normal, leaving us feeling like we are drowning in a sea of screens. Organisations were forced to change their work models leading to the ‘work from home’ model, which relied on maximising the use of IT devices, thus digitally transforming the work environment. Video conferencing and calls became the revolutionised method of conducting meetings. Zoom’s average number of users jumped from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020 (‘How COVID-19 Increased Data Consumption and Highlighted the Digital Divide, 2021’). The sudden increase in digital consumption caused problems in maintaining work-life balance, work efficiency and productivity.

This model continues to change. A hybrid model, where workers can alternate between working from home and office has come to dominate the labour market (Grzegorczyk et al, 2021). While this hybrid model has several advantages like reducing commute time and increasing productivity, it comes with certain disadvantages as well. For example, hybrid workers may find it challenging to keep their personal and professional lives apart, resulting in burnout and overwork. Hybrid workers may experience technical difficulties that can disrupt their work and cause stress, such as internet issues or lack of equipment.

Detox Strategies

Practising digital detox while working can be of major help in tackling the negative effects of digital overload. It can help in reconnecting with the natural world and loved ones, as well as forming workplace bonds. Eliminating online distractions can increase concentration levels, thus also increasing productivity. Stress hormones like cortisol can rise in response to continuous technology use. Detoxing from internet usage can lower stress and enhance general well-being. It can also benefit employees in rediscovering their motivations and values and in setting more attainable goals. Additionally, it can lessen anxiety and depression, promote greater physical activity, and enhance the quality of sleep. Employees who go on a digital detox can enhance their communication skills by being more attentive and focused on the person they are conversing with.

Organisations should implement digital detox policies to change the always “on” work culture and address employee well-being and productivity. This can be done in several ways. Companies should encourage employees to take breaks from their computers and go for walks to get some exercise. Organising recreational activities such as yoga can also help them detoxify and relax.

Furthermore, providing employees with relaxation resources, such as meditation rooms or wellness programmes, can help them on their digital detox journey. These initiatives promote a healthier workplace by lowering stress and improving overall well-being. In addition, having tech-free meetings to facilitate interpersonal communication is another step that can be taken (Basu,2019). Smaller steps, such as providing a detox calendar and having tech-free lunch breaks, are also feasible strategies.

The rise in mental health issues caused by our hyperconnected world has reached unparalleled levels, demanding individuals to unplug and prioritise their well-being. Organisations must implement digital detox policies that not only benefit their employees’ mental health but also allow them to regain control over their time, attention and productivity. It is critical for our overall development to strike a balance between the digital and physical realms. Adopting the concept of digital detox at the workplace is critical to ensuring a healthier, more fulfilling working environment for all.

This article has been co-authored by Prof. Garima Rajan, Faculty of Psychology, FLAME University, and Anusha Guru, Undergraduate Student, FLAME University.

(Source:- https://telanganatoday.com/opinion-digital-detox-at-workplace )