Did you know that on average, people in the UK spend 8 hours or more per day in front of a screen and to avoid missing out on a second of this screen time, 75% of us take our phones to the bathroom! In our rapidly evolving techno environment, these stats may not be a surprise to you, but should they be of concern?
This January, I facilitated our first Women in Leadership, Resilience Debate of 2017 on the subject of Techno Stress. The session, which had sold out in minutes, sparked a profound debate on the pros and cons of being permanently connected and how this affects us as individuals.
Providing the group with her expertise in this field, we were lucky enough to be joined by Michaela Keene, a behavioural change coach. Michaela was quick to point out that as women, we pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task, yet the constant distraction of a pinging phone or an ever-increasing inbox can trigger health issues that stem from what could be described as techno stress.
One of the many things I love about these debates is that they encourage delegates to share their experiences and best practices with the group, and this session was no exception. Picking up tips on how best to manage my inbox, the discussion also encouraged me to think about how I could change the timings of my e-marketing to ensure emails reach people within working hours, going against previous expert advice I’d been given. However, these efficiency practices are all great if you can then leave it all behind at 5.30pm, but with work blackberries becoming a thing of the past, more of us now find ourselves reading work emails on our personal handsets last thing at night, with the added pressure of sometimes feeling that an instant response is necessary.
But where does this pressure come from? Many believe that this pressure comes from the top, down and that by responding to emails late at night, or whilst on holiday, your bosses are setting a precedent of which you should follow? But could you take control of this situation? After all, when you say yes to this pressure, what part of you are you saying no to?
With all the many technological benefits, we are now recognising the drawbacks which are seriously affecting our relationships and health. Technology helps you to stay connected to the people you love, but also to the people you don’t. It can make you feel safe and yet has created privacy issues that make it unsafe. Communication channels are now better than ever, but people are interacting on a less personal level as a result. Technology has created a faster, more efficient way of working, but with information overload and constant change there is little time to stay ahead of the game and this places an uncontrollable amount of pressure on us all. The fact is, technology is here to stay and so how we manage our use of it is key to a successful and healthy relationship with it. We need to become better at stepping away from the screen, switching off our devices and talking to people face to face on a more regular basis. Try it, you’ll find it liberating!
Another issue related to techno stress that struck a chord with many around the table, was how technology affects the younger generation. Many within the group expressed how difficult they found managing what technology and how much of it their children should be exposed to. But how can you expect your children to accept screen time limitations if you are constantly attached to your phone or tablet?
Michaela shared, that in Taiwan they have recognised that young people are becoming web-junkies. As a result, children under 2 are completely banned from using electronic devices and parents fined if they’re under 18 year olds are found using an electronic device for an unreasonable amount of time. In Taiwan electronic products are now listed alongside cigarettes and alcohol as potentially dangerous vices.
The point is that regardless of your age, everyone needs time out and by creating boundaries and prioritising time away from your inbox, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to become more resilient. A few years ago, Google implemented the 80/20 way of working, where employees were encouraged to spend 20% of their working week away from the everyday grind to unlock creativity and innovation. Google came up with this idea after it was proved that too much exposure to constant distractions affects your creativity and IQ.
So how can you and your organisation help your people to keep distractions down to an acceptable level? Are there any ways to communicate company news, other than via email? Does everyone in the team need to be copied on every email? Would you allow your team to block out time that they could use to learn a new skill, whether that be a work related skill or a personal one?
Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own individual wellbeing and as a result, we need to prioritise ourselves and take the power back. If nothing else, take the recommended 2 minutes away from your screen in every 20 and remember, when you say yes, what part of you are you saying no to?