The Role of Technology in Improving Digital Wellness for IT Workers

Digital Wellness

How much time do you spend staring at a screen each day?

Assuming you work on a computer, that’s an automatic eight hours each workday. Then factor in your daily smartphone usage, which averages between four and five hours (as of April 2021).

This means the average adult spends anywhere from 12-13 hours a day using digital technology — and this doesn’t even include watching television! With numbers like these, it’s no wonder there’s so much talk of digital wellness.

But what does digital health and wellness involve, exactly? What makes digital wellbeing so crucial in our era? And what are some tips that you and your employees can use for improving digital wellness?

We’ll dive into these important topics and more, so keep reading!

Defining Digital Wellness

“Digital wellness” may sound like this year’s newest catchphrase, but the concept has been around for at least a decade.

The advent of the internet brought us into the digital era but, as mentioned at the outset, smartphones have drastically increased the amount of time we spend online. Now, a year and a half into a global pandemic, many of us spend most of our waking hours staring at a screen.

Digital wellbeing involves using technology properly so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on your physical or mental health. In some cases, this might mean reducing the amount of time we spend using our computers and smartphones.

Of course, for IT workers and others who rely on technology for their jobs, reducing screen time may not be an option. Therefore, digital wellness also includes setting personal boundaries and striving to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Before we discuss some specific ways to achieve this, first let’s see why improving digital wellness is so important.

The Struggle to Achieve Digital Wellbeing

For years, researchers have studied the link between digital usage and an array of physical and mental health conditions. Not surprisingly, people who compulsively go online and prefer social networking to real-life interaction have a higher risk of developing depression.

More recently, researchers have looked at the connection between social media and digital health and wellness. The results, sad to say, are shocking. One study found that teens who spend five hours a day on electronic devices are 71% more likely to contemplate suicide than those who spend one hour.

If overusing tech can affect teens that haven’t even entered the workforce yet, how much more so can it affect adults in the working world?

Of course, mental health is only one side of the coin. Sitting at a computer all day creates a sedentary lifestyle that can increase the risk of developing:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • High cholesterol
  • Osteoporosis
  • Colon, breast, and uterine cancer

The majority of IT workers and other tech professionals acknowledge these risks and express the desire for a healthier lifestyle. In one recent survey, 76% of employees felt they could better manage their health through reduced or restricted use of technology.

What’s the takeaway, then? Are we all doomed to be slaves to our electronic devices? Is technology always “the bad guy?”

Not at all! The key to achieving digital wellness is to find the right balance with our device usage. After all, our generation will rely on technology for all of our working lives, so the time to focus on forming healthy habits is right now.

This is just one of many problems we want to help you solve, starting with the following tips.

7 Tips for Improving Digital Wellness

Now that you understand the importance of digital wellbeing, let’s talk about some actionable tips you can take to get started. Be sure to share them with your employees and colleagues so they can work on improving digital wellness too!

1. Try to Limit Screen Time

We’ll start with the most obvious solution first: reducing the amount of time you spend tied to technology.

Granted, this is easier to accomplish in some industries than in others. If your job depends on you looking at a screen, there’s not much you can do during the 9-to-5 grind. However, there are still some things you could consider to help yourself (and your employees) cut back a little bit.

For starters, step away from the screen during your lunch break and coffee breaks. Encourage your employees to do the same by initiating a “lunchtime step challenge.” Award prizes for the number of steps each employee takes during their lunch break.

If it’s possible, another idea is to switch from a fully remote workplace to a hybrid model. Rather than having every employee work from home 100% of the time, have them spend one or two days a week at the office. The trick is to use these in-office days for non-computer tasks that they can’t accomplish from home.

For example, you could organize some team-building exercises, brainstorming sessions, or learning lunches. Remember: the goal is to reduce screen time and boost real-life interactions.

2. Allow Yourself to Switch Off

At the height of the pandemic, 70% of US employees worked remotely. Today, that figure hovers around 50%.

While there are some terrific benefits to working from home, it comes with some unexpected side effects. Many people admit that they have a hard time transitioning from “work time” to “home time.” And in one report, 30% of remote workers admitted they often continue working after-hours.

In a world as interconnected as ours is, this comes as no surprise. It’s all too easy for emails and messages to come rolling in after the workday ends, especially if your team is in different time zones.

If you manage a team of remote employees, encourage digital wellness by allowing them to switch off at the end of the day. Set the core hours they need to be available and encourage colleagues not to contact them outside those times (unless it’s an emergency). To help in this endeavor, use a digital wellness app that blocks notifications on your phone and computer.

Bonus tip: If you’re the boss, you’re allowed to switch off sometimes too!

3. Avoid Virtual Meeting & Video Call Fatigue

Companies can accomplish amazing things through VoIP solutions and video conferencing tools. However, like other workplace tools, they can be overused and quickly lead to burnout.

True, video calls and virtual meetings can be effective time-savers when they have a clear purpose. It also helps to keep the human connection alive, especially in a 100%-remote workplace.

However, meetings also require your employees to be “on,” which can tire them out if they become excessive. Too many meetings — especially those with no clear objective — only create stress and anxiety for your employees.

Before you schedule another meeting or conference call, ask yourself if it’s really necessary. You might also reconsider your current meeting schedule and look for ways to cut back. Rather than a daily team meeting, could you hold one longer meeting on Monday morning to discuss your goals for the week?

4. Consolidate & Limit Digital Communication

Most office workers today are bombarded with emails and messages. Constantly being inundated with communications can have a devastating impact on digital wellbeing.

In a report cited earlier, two-thirds of employees struggle to accomplish their daily tasks because of the influx of messages and emails. In fact, many spend up to 20% of their workday reading and replying to digital communications.

Not only does this affect productivity levels, but it also causes unnecessary stress and anxiety.

What’s the solution? Moving communication to the right platform (and communicating with the right people) is key.

For example, you could use an app like Slack or Microsoft Teams and create relevant channels for different teams or projects. These allow for instant notification and collaboration, rather than sending out a string of emails. Notify the right people with @ mentions or message them privately to avoid disrupting the entire team.

Another suggestion is to encourage phone or video calls for complex subjects. You can often accomplish more with a quick five-minute call than you can with an hour of (stressful) back-and-forth emails.

5. Promote Digital Wellbeing on the Company Intranet

Your company’s digital workspace should include more than just work tasks and goals. It should also be a safe haven where employees can have conversations about things other than work.

Set up a page or start a channel dedicated to digital wellness. Organize regular coffee chats about non-work topics. You could also invite guest speakers to talk about meditation, mindfulness, yoga, or other relevant topics.

Share helpful content on these platforms, such as articles or YouTube videos dedicated to self-care or mental health. This is also the perfect place to display national helplines and internal contact information for company resources.

Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma in many workplaces when it comes to discussing mental health concerns. In a report mentioned earlier, 40% of employees said they’d feel comfortable discussing a topic like cancer with their boss. However, only 10% would feel comfortable having a discussion about depression, self-harm, or bipolar disorder.

Of course, this isn’t to say it’s your place to pry into your employees’ personal lives. The goal is to foster a workplace where your employees feel free to discuss important matters like mental health and wellness if they want to.

6. Use a Digital Wellness App

We’ve focused a lot on reducing our dependence on technology, but let’s not forget a vital fact: Tech isn’t the bad guy. In fact, there are many ways you can use technology to improve your digital health.

Here are some apps you might consider based on your needs and interests:

  • Moment (tracks app usage and overall screen time)
  • f.lux (blue light filter to reduce eye strain and headaches)
  • Headspace (science-based mindfulness and meditation)
  • OurPact (goal setting and activity trackers for colleagues or family members)
  • Calm (soothing music and guided meditation)
  • The Worry Box (self-help through a worry cognitive diary)
  • 7 Cups of Tea (connects users to online counselors and therapists)
  • Acupressure: Heal Yourself (self-massage techniques to relieve stress and pain)

If you find an app that you love, be sure to share it on that company wellness channel we mentioned earlier. The only thing better than improving your own digital wellness is helping your colleagues do the same.

In fact, this leads nicely into our final tip: IT outsourcing services.

7. Ease the Workload by Outsourcing

Do you have a dedicated in-house IT team? If not, do you often delegate data, security, and hardware tasks to employees who aren’t fully qualified to perform them?

It’s tempting to try to save costs with these DIY efforts. When it comes to the security of your business, though, you can’t afford to cut corners.

In addition, pushing extra tasks onto unqualified employees will only frustrate and overwhelm them. At best, they’ll do a mediocre job. At worst, their mental health and digital wellbeing will suffer.

For these reasons (and many others), savvy business owners choose to outsource their IT needs to a team of experts. Managed IT services ensure your company has everything it needs to succeed — without placing an unnecessary burden on your staff.

IT Workers: Make Digital Health and Wellness a Priority

Digital technology is a fundamental part of society now and there’s no going back. As time goes on, our reliance on technology will only continue to grow.

What does this mean for IT workers and others who spend long hours in front of a screen?

The time to prioritize digital wellbeing is right now. As we’ve discussed, digital wellness involves having a healthy relationship with the technology we use. It means setting boundaries where appropriate and striving to achieve a good work-life balance.

In some situations, it may also mean reducing stress by outsourcing your IT and security tasks to a trusted support company. Doing so will allow you and your employees to better focus on the core aspects of your business.

Does this sound like the solution you’ve been looking for? Are you interested in partnering with a managed IT service provider in the Los Angeles area? Click here to learn more or schedule a free consultation.

About Chad Lauterbach

CEO at Be Structured Technology Group, Inc. a Los Angeles based provider of Managed IT Services for small business. I desire to help small businesses better utilize technology by assisting in high level planning to make sure that new systems will benefit them both operationally and financially. I am careful to implement and support systems using industry best practices.