It’s clear that technology has transformed the way we work and spend our personal time – often enhancing our experiences.
However, not everyone feels in control of their relationship with digital technology. As a species, human beings have not evolved to be able to process the sheer volume of digital information we’re presented with on an ongoing and daily basis.
What’s more, communication outlets and devices are changing every part of our lives so rapidly that it can be tough to adjust. Our mental health is under greater pressure than it ever has been before.
With this in mind, we held an event in conjunction with experts in this field, Dr Nick Taylor, Clinical Psychologist and CEO/Co-founder of Unmind and Laura Willis of Shine Offline.
During the dinner, we discussed the impact of technology on mental health and the importance of being mindful of our behaviours. After all, technology should enhance our experience and support our humanness – not take over it.
Here are some things we can implement and be mindful of to keep our digital use in check.
Rise of the constant checker
How often do we check our emails, news updates, social media? Some studies have suggested the average adult interacts with their phone over 2K times a day. Surveys have found that stress runs higher, on average, for constant checkers than for those who do not engage with technology as frequently.
How many of us use our phones as an alarm clock and take our phone to bed? This increases the impulse to just have one last check of the inbox, scroll through news, flick through social media. The temptation is often just too much to resist.
And unless you have a magical phone that only produces joyful updates (in which case, can we swap?), there’s a very good chance it will put you in an unsettled mindset just before you go to sleep. It’s also the first thing you reach for as you wake up in the morning.
Being mindful and leaving the phone downstairs could go some way to helping you have a better night’s rest.
Tethered to work
In a culture that allows people to be contactable 24/7, is it possible to achieve a healthy work/life balance?
For example, at one point we were able to leave the office for the day. We may have gone to the gym, met up with friends, watched TV with loved ones. While the days’ stresses would, in some cases, still be with us, physically we were away and able to take a mental break.
But now we’re tethered to our phones and our emails – which connects us back to the office.
So that event or meeting or email etc that unsettled us in the afternoon, that should be left until we’re refreshed in the morning, has the potential to rumble on long into our evening, when we’re less equipped to deal with it.
The emergence of the over-achiever
How many leaders and people managers continue to send emails at the weekend or late in the evening, frequently cc’ing in their team, even if they don’t expect a response?
There is a culture that being on and available 24/7 equates to excellence, and those conscientious individuals trying to build a career will sometimes burn out, while they strive to do what they think is expected.
The holiday worker
In the 1980s, it was very unlikely your boss would be calling your hotel room and expecting you to answer. And yet so many of us continue to check – and reply – to our emails on annual leave.
Sorting out work problems during our time off is not going to help us enjoy our holiday, and it’s certainly not going to bring us closer to our friends and loved ones.
Annual leave and breaks are provided by employers for a reason – these are the times to recharge and reset. A culture where we feel we need to be present and available around the clock, is not practical in the long-term.
The benefits that our technology provide us are significant, but it can also have a negative impact which is less frequently discussed. Our conversation drew the conclusion that as technology continues to develop, we need to be more considerate as to how we, and our teams, engage with it.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Nick Taylor and Laura Willis for their invaluable insights. If you have any thoughts on the issues discussed, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
More insights from this dinner can be read in this post here.