In 2020, the world was whisked into a new digital era where working from home and online meetings suddenly became the norm for millions of people around the globe. While some people could adapt to these changes relatively smoothly, for others it was out of their comfort zone and became an additional form of stress alongside the confusion, fear, and uncertainty of the pandemic.
A study described on verywellfamily.com delved into how technology can affect our wellbeing. It found that although there are many benefits to the digital world, many people are concerned that the growing use of technology is a contributing factor of stress, lack of focus, and cyberbullying.
Negative effects of increased technology at work:
• There is increasing pressure to always be available online when we’re working from home. Yet if we were physically in our place of work, this kind of pressure would be less likely to exist.
• With the new way of working from home, in many instances online meetings have increased. Although this may partly be out of concern for employees’ wellbeing, in some cases it might also be a way to check up on employees. For many people this new way of holding meetings digitally feels uncomfortable because they feel that their every move or facial expression is being scrutinised.
• Not everyone who’s been unexpectedly thrown into working from home is familiar with the apps designed for online meetings, and this fear of technology can trigger anxiety. Learning how to use unfamiliar technology and the fear that external factors might prevent you from getting online in time can all add to the stress.
• Prior to working from home, you may not have been aware of 'mirror anxiety'. The use of online meeting apps such as Zoom mean that you can constantly see yourself on screen and this feeling of vulnerability has been linked to heightened anxiety and depression.
• Excessive online meetings and use of technology through working from home means that there is more pressure and less time to complete work and meet deadlines.
• Because you’re less likely to video call a colleague for a quick chat when you’re home working, it means there’s a lack of face-to-face socialising which can make you feel isolated.
Ways to promote digital wellbeing
There are several ways that managers can reinforce wellbeing and help their employees adjust to a more digitally focused way of working:
• During online meetings, give the option to have the camera switched off.
• Give plenty of notice for online meetings so that staff are less likely to feel on edge about suddenly being called to a meeting, especially when they aren’t dressed appropriately.
• Loosen up on the dress code and don’t expect employees to attend online meetings in more formal wear.
• Organise out of hours social events online so that employees aren’t just seeing colleagues in work mode. Often emails and other forms of digital communication can get misconstrued, so this provides the opportunity for everyone to socialise informally.
• Have trust in your employees so that if they do decide to go for a walk outside at lunchtime, for example, they aren’t in fear of management accusing them of avoiding work.
• Streamline all forms of communication and stick to a minimal number of online channels so not to confuse people or create more stress. Ensure all employees are familiar with the channels being used prior to their use.
• Regularly ask staff to feed back on the new digital way of working from home. What is good for one person might not be good for another so try to accommodate each person accordingly.
First Psychology held three webinars on the topic of digital working. You can read more about these webinars and watch the recordings for free using the links below.
- Coping with a changing workplace
- The impact of gender roles on wellbeing at work
- How to prevent burnout and maintain visibility while working from home
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