The impact of ‘always on’ technology

David Price, CEO and workplace wellbeing expert at Health Assured, highlights some of the issues with the ‘always on’ technology culture we live in

Technology is everywhere. Just 10 years ago, smartphones were beginning to take off; internet connections were 16mbit per second – if you were lucky – and it was easy for most of us to switch off from work at the end of the day. Now, everyone has a supercomputer in their pocket, gigabit connections are standard and there’s an absolute pressure to be available at all times.

This can have a detrimental effect on the mental health of employees; when there’s a 24/7 working culture in place – fuelled by this ‘always on’ technology boom – people feel far more stressed.

Simply being always contactable can cause immense stress and anxiety about work expectations, even if that person doesn’t actively check on their work out of hours. You need to strike a balance between being available and living your own life free of the digital grip.

  • Set strict times for your use of workplace technology and stick to them. Most smartphones have free apps available to help here. You can set a digital lock on your email client, and physically stop new notifications from appearing. The trick is to condition yourself into dealing with these things during work hours only!
  • Be mindful. Every time you find yourself reaching for your smartphone, stop and ask yourself ‘Why? If it’s for work, it can wait’ – this is an excellent mantra to live by.
  • Try a digital fast. This is a bit of an extreme measure, but it’ll have a marked result on your digital – and mental – wellbeing. Put simply, you should try to spend a week without your devices outside work: no emails, no social media, no obsessive checking of the news. If you’re at the point where your smart device rules you, it’s time to put it away and reconnect with the people who matter.
  • Be mindful of others. Maybe you can’t see yourself ever letting go of your out-of-work emails, but does everyone you work with feel the same? Co-workers and employees all have their own lives, duties and responsibilities, and they may not be as eager to be on it 24/7. When you’re composing an email at 9.30 PM, stop and think – is this notification going to cause stress and anxiety for someone who receives it? Can it wait until the morning? Most of the time, the answer is ‘Yes’ – and reducing people’s stress should always be your priority.
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