Submission by Heather Redding.
There’s growing evidence on the link between mental health and technology, with an increasing number of organizations becoming aware of the detrimental effects it can have on employees.
As the stigma surrounding mental health is being eliminated, opening up new conversations on how technology affects us will help organizations weed out the detrimental effects of technology through initiatives and new regulations.
Technology Isn’t Going Away
New technological breakthroughs happen faster than ever before because the rate at which technology is advancing is exponential, as observed by Ray Kurzweil in his book “The Age of Spiritual Machines” published in 1999.
There, he proposed the law of accelerating returns which he further explains in his 2001 essay.
He argues that as we get to a barrier with existing technology, new technology will emerge to break the barrier.
It’s an exciting time to be alive and marvel at all the new tech available to us.
The biggest issue with such technological advancements is that they move faster than humans are able to keep up, often leading to consequences we could not even foresee.
While we love our automation tools and VR headsets, we need to consider the detrimental effects too.
1. Technology Leads to Lack of Human Interaction
It often seems that people are spending more time on their devices than with other people.
Even when a person is in social settings, it’s not uncommon to see them checking their phones or mindlessly scrolling through news feeds.
The influx of more technology is removing people’s ability to use their social skills for human interaction.
The office setting isn’t immune to such developments, especially in times when a growing part of the workforce is able to work remotely too. While it gives a better life-work balance, it gets lonely quicker.
To avoid this type of disconnection in your offices (and remote settings), you must set up different group responsibilities that require employees to work in teams and collaborate.
While it might not be comfortable for some employees, it’s important for developmental reasons and their mental health and wellbeing. There are plenty of studies that connect the links between loneliness and social media.
It’s been proven that people use social apps because they feel lonely. The apps make them feel connected again and become the instrument that helps them cope.
When people are actively working with one another in real-time, it helps to create a strong sense of community.
There’s power in connecting with other employees on a regular basis. It can also boost the overall morale of the company.
2. Lack of Physical Movement
Physical health and mental health are directly connected. When a person doesn’t feel great about their body or physical health, this can lead to obsession, depression, and hopelessness.
Many health professionals consider sitting as the new form of smoking in that it has the same detrimental impacts on the body. When an employee isn’t able to move around because they’re glued to their workstation, this will decrease their ability to tend to their health.
Many corporations have purchased standing desks in order to encourage employees to still get their work done without sitting for hours on end. Standing will encourage circulation in the body which will help an employee feel more focused and alert.
Exercise is effective for mental health. When a person exercises, there is a release of endorphins. Endorphins naturally make a person feel better. Though your employees might dread a workout, they typically won’t regret going for a workout because they will feel better.
Encourage employees to take breaks to exercise. Find ways to creatively weave exercise into the company culture. It might be impactful to attach certain incentives to these initiatives.
If there’s a nearby gym, partner with that gym to get a discount or free memberships for the employees.
When an active lifestyle is encouraged and supported from the top, the impacts will translate through intentional employees who work efficiently and effectively.
The work culture challenges people to go above and beyond in their work environments, to live and breathe for work, people push themselves to keep going and work harder, which ultimately leads to burnout.
Burnout is more than feeling tired. You feel disconnected from the workplace, dread Monday mornings and feel cynical about anything related to the workplace.
You might think that with all the technology at our disposal, work should be easier, but it seems that it has become much harder.
How is this possible, with all the new software solutions and automation that is at your disposal nowadays?
It’s because of more work and complex responsibilities than ever before. We finish our tasks faster, but work just keeps piling up. The 8-hour workday just doesn’t make sense anymore.
Instead of being rewarded because you can finish up work in six hours, you get extra work for those two hours.
This is the reason so many people feel burnt out, stressed and their health suffers extremely under such pressure.
Research has shown that productivity will go up if you stop piling up more work to people because on average, people will only work efficiently half the working hours or less.
Remote employees often set their own hours and often work more than 8 hours per day, making it impossible to separate their home life from their work life.
Many employees and employers disrespect one another by not maintaining strict boundaries regarding when it’s okay to contact one another.
When an employee is getting alerts on their day off or while they’re on maternity leave, this directly tells them that their need to disconnect and rest isn’t important.
Set regular business hours to encourage a work/life balance.
Avoid sending emails outside of business hours.
Never contact employees on their personal phones, if you need them on call during the day, make sure you supply a company phone.
Unless it’s an emergency, there’s no reason why employees should get countless emails on their day off.
4. Technology Issues Lead to Stress
Outdated technology and overlapping software is often a big reason for stress at work.
Businesses will be raising their IT budgets to battle outdated technology—44% of businesses will increase their technology spending for 2020 to replace such technology with new solutions.
While increasing the budget for IT-related spending might not be your first choice, you can do much by ensuring all workstations are optimized and don’t slow them down.
Your employees will thank you if you include them and run a few crash courses on solving the most common computer issues.
When they know how to solve issues on their own, there will be less stress in the workplace.
5. Increased Risk of Anxiety and Depression
Over 40 million U.S. citizens suffer from an anxiety disorder, which is one of the most common disorders in the States.
Technology can increase risk, especially if your employees have very technological roles.
The BIMA study revealed that the tech sector has the highest percentage of people who have experienced depression or anxiety at some point—52%, which is extremely high when compared to the 4-10% averages in the general population.
The mental health of your employees is essential. If they don’t have their minds, this will directly impact their ability to live healthy lives and contribute to the company in effective ways.
The most pressured jobs were web development, project management, web design, and admin roles. This is due to the unrealistic expectations set upon employees.
They might have unprecedented access to software and platforms that make their jobs easier, but the workload is still too much.
Many of the happiest employees are employed by companies who take their humanity and prioritize it.
People don’t live to work. They work to live. When a company understands that reality, the work culture can truly shift.
As you work towards making sure you have an awareness of your own mental health, it’s also important to be mindful of those around you.
If you notice something and you have a relationship with the person where you feel comfortable mentioning something, it’s wise to do so.
You don’t want to see anyone go down the wrong path because they don’t have the tools.
Equip yourself first. Then, you can be an example of the changes you’ve made.
There’s a way to manage technology without experiencing the potentially negative impacts.
Though the effort might be challenging, your health is worth the effort.
- About the author:
Heather Redding is a content manager for rent, hailing from Aurora. She loves to geek out writing about wearables, IoT and other hot tech trends. When she finds the time to detach from her keyboard, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee.