Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic. - Arthur C. Clarke (Author)
We talk a lot about the pillars of wellbeing, but this month I wanted to focus in particular on the impact the digital world has on our wellbeing. In a post COVID world, the focus on mental wellbeing, quite rightly, has been elevated as a priority for many senior leaders. As stories in the media continue to focus on the increasing costs of living, combined with an economic downturn, pressure on our teams to perform more, with less resources has never been greater.
Digital technologies are undeniably part of modern working life that can help us achieve a lot and are valuable tools for many. However, if not managed properly they can have an impact on our mental wellbeing. In our latest blog I wanted to share the output of three key reports from some recent research to explain the impact of digital is having on our wellbeing and offer some actions leaders can take to help support their teams. The smart phone is a key recent addition to our digital toolkit and In a recent report by Deloitte into Smart phone usage, found that:
40% of individuals think they use their smart phone too much.
29% do nothing to reduce their screen time.
32% of smart phone addicts, put their phone on mute to manage overuse.
And 25% admit to being distracted by their phones.
Mental wellbeing is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as:
“A state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
The professional UK HR body - CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) wrote a report in July 2021 with some interesting findings, around the impact that the digital world has on our wellbeing. Whilst all employers have a duty of care to their teams, we can see that an estimated 10% of all adult workforce will suffer with some kind of mental ill-health this year alone. The most common diagnosis from the pressures we experience in the workplace (sometimes influenced by personal situations) will result in a diagnosis of stress, depression or lead to burnout. The report found that women aged 25-35yrs are also twice as likely to experience depression vs men, but age was not a key factor.
Impact of digital on our mental wellbeing
When our teams are under pressure it can impact their mental wellbeing, from a number of research studies we can see that digital does have an influencing factor in some occasions. In the report by the CIPD om 2021, they cite some influencing factors as:
1. Autonomy and a heavy workload. A common view amongst HR Directors was that their teams needed to have permission to take control of their workloads and feel empowered to make their own decisions.
2. Damage work/ life balance. In many organisations the expectation is that you will always be available, even when on holiday. This combined with the blurring lines between work and home life, in a hybrid working environment can impact us greatly.
3. Weaken social relationships. It is proven that by asking colleagues and supervisors for help, can alleviate stressful moments. With a remote, hybrid way of working now being commonplace, it is more difficult to have those ‘coffee machine’ moments to discuss a problem or challenge. For those who live alone, loneliness is also a real concern.
4. Working long hours, can also impact our mental wellbeing, especially by not feeling like we have permission to switch off from the tech.
5. Physically affect us by the effects of the blue light and screen time. If devices are not switched off in plenty of time before bed, it can impact our ability to sleep well. Practicing good sleep hygiene is crucial to us being able to build resilience.
Tips to help your team manage their mental wellbeing.
There are some obvious actions to counterbalance the above causes of mental ill health in the workplace. In a recent report by Deloitte, they found some similar trends to the CIPD research, that a heavy workload, stressful job and long working hours were top of the list in obstacles that employees cited as preventing them from improving their wellbeing. Their findings around all of the key pillars of wellbeing are concerning:
74% said they struggle to take time off or disconnect from work.
52% reported that they always or often use all of their holiday time each year, meaning that 48% of workers do not take their allotted holidays.
48% move or exercise daily.
45% get at least seven hours of sleep.
And only 42% have enough time for friends and family.
We know that action needs to be taken to better support our teams and Deloitte’s findings state that:
“Sixty percent of employees, 64% of managers, and 75% of the C-suite are seriously considering quitting for a job that would better support their well-being.”
So how can we support our teams to take an approach to their work which not only supports their wellbeing but also encourages staff retention? By ensuring the organisation has a wellbeing strategy in place to support the key pillars will be a good place to start, to creating a road map on how the organisation provides wellbeing support for all.
1. Lead by example, encourage all senior leaders from the top down to give their teams permission to work within a certain wellbeing framework. Deloitte’s report suggests that 32% of employees don’t feel that their manager cares about their wellbeing. Ideas to support this could include, running meetings only during office hours (9am – 5pm), having no meeting Fridays and arranging team social events.
2. Empower our teams to use the wellbeing support offered to them, publicly and openly encourage this to happen.
3. Offer support and tools to help your teams manage stress, this could include wellbeing workshops, mindfulness drop in sessions, Pilates or Yoga classes at lunchtime or CBT training.
4. Training. Focusing on mental wellbeing, by training mental health first aiders and creating awareness amongst everyone about the importance of wellbeing, the signs to look out for and what to do if you are worried about a colleague.
5. Encourage a mindset shift. The future happiness and productivity of our workforce depends upon a mindset shift across all levels within the organisation. By focusing on human sustainability amongst our teams will not only help to retain staff, make them more productive because they have purpose, but will also help attract new talent.
Digital tools are increasingly a key part of many people’s working life, largely heightened as a result of a now widely adopted hybrid way of working. The impact of the change in our way of working since COVID, in part is due to the use of digital, also needs to create a mindset shift to realise this is an essential part of the future success of business. Our teams are our most important asset, we should nurture and support them.
If you would like to discover more about our the Mental Health First Aid training we offer, mindfulness practice or to see how we can support the mental wellbeing of the teams in your organisation, please get in touch.