Looking after employee digital wellbeing
For some time, mental health has been gaining more attention across all parts of society, no more so than by employers’ recognition of the fact that they have a responsibility to their workforce for their mental wellbeing at work. Most people will be familiar with digital wellness in the context of mobile device usage. Mobile device manufactures are very conscious of the impact to their business as a result of any negative association with digital wellness. Consequently, tools and reporting that aim to educate and support users to monitor their online habits are now part of all the major mobile platforms. Weekly screen time is one such example. As an employer there are wider responsibilities, responsibilities that bring challenges, and strategies that must be considered in maintaining workplace digital wellbeing.
What’s driving the need?
Technology evolves, and even before a global pandemic drove many of us to work from home, the time we spend online has been increasing. Organizations have most recently had to rapidly enable remote working for the majority of their staff. Employees are finding that once, where collaboration was face-to-face, technology has taken its place. Their work life is now predominantly digital. A recent Gartner poll showed that 41% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic. A trend that is most likely to continue.
This rapid transition of working practices and the need to adopt unfamiliar ways to communicate can have an impact on employee wellbeing. Driven by the uncertainties that a global pandemic brings to job security and the disruption to working routines, employee stress and anxiety are on the increase. According to the World Health Organization, even before the current situation, depression and anxiety are estimated to cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
We as human beings have great capacity to adapt, it is this ability for adaptation that makes us so successful. However, our capacity for adaptation is not without dangers or limits, those limits will differ from person to person. But, while society as a whole must learn to adapt to this new normality, as employers we need to be aware of the risks and mitigate them.
24/7 digital existence
Work related stress and anxiety are of course nothing new, it has long been understood that the always on 24/7 digitally connected existence is not healthy. For some time, it has been progressive companies that have led the way to a healthier work life balance with policies that positively reinforce healthy habits. For example, the need to remove the pressure to stay connected and switch off at the end of the working day; ensuring that work related email is only delivered within working hours; or in Daimler’s case, to remove the anxiety of email overload on return from vacation. They went as far as to respond with an out-of-office informing the sender that messages are automatically deleted while the employee is away.
There are few if any directives that provide direct guidance to organizations in digital wellness. On national levels, certainly within the EU, there are countries like France pioneering initiatives such as the right to switch off. The EU Work-life Balance Directive provides for employee rights to flexible working and work life balance in the context of the family. For the most part however, until such time where digital wellbeing becomes a directive from governing bodies, the responsibility to define best practices lies with employers.
Key steps to managing digital wellness
The first step to understanding employee’s digital wellness is understanding behavior. Supporting employee wellbeing in this new reality needs a holistic view of how people interact with their digital world. Many employees may not realize how their working habits may be impacting their wellbeing. In more serious cases a clear sign of digital burnout could be incessant multi-tasking from screen to screen, this not only has an extremely negative impact on productivity but more seriously so on their mental health.
Observing how people use their digital environment is the first key step to understanding their challenges. It informs us as to how effective their interactions are in support of their wellbeing.
Measure, inform and educate
Finding the right balance between the use of digital platforms and more traditional methods, such as picking up the phone to talk to someone is essential to maintaining productivity and maintaining healthy practices. And in a digital workspace, employees face the challenge of selecting the appropriate tool for the job in hand. They may, for example, be unaware of collaboration platforms that better support their day-to-day activities or perhaps the fact that they are continually distracted by email interruptions. We are probably all familiar with the tiredness kills message from our car dashboard, less obvious to us might be the risks of endless hours in front of a computer screen without a break. Therefore, you need a way of helping employees to reflect on their relationship with technology and to provide the advice and tools to help them manage and achieve their sense of personal digital wellbeing.
Apps2Digital is an online evergreen lifecycle management service for virtual workspace applications that goes one step further by helping organizations care for their employee’s wellbeing. Through a wellness dashboard, the assessment capabilities of the service deliver key metrics of employee interactions with their digital workspaces. Using well understood measurements of wellbeing in digital environments, it provides employers detailed insight to help and guide employees to manage digital wellbeing. By using Apps2Digital, you can ensure effective remote working, enhance productivity, and maintain your employee’s digital wellness in the age of the new normal. Founded by a group of EUC experts, our aim is to accompany organizations on their digital transformation journey to modern application management, while maintaining a superior level of care.