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Tackling technology overload: How to implement tech-turn-off best practice in the workplace

This is a guide to help employers manage the pros and cons of digital technology in and around the workplace. It outlines ways in which organisations can implement a healthy digital culture which ensures employees avoid the stresses of ‘always-on’ technology use, while benefiting from its many advantages.

Related resources:

The digital health dilemma

Our recent survey and report, The Digital Health Dilemma, asked: Is technology keeping workers healthy or making them ill?

The results show that digital technology has immensely powerful capacity to help us in our working lives and can even be used to support our physical and mental health, but it can also lead to ‘tech overload’ which can negatively impact our well-being.

The survey also revealed that employees are keen for their employers to help support them avoid tech overload and its negative effects. This article details how organisations could implement tech-turn-off best practice and build a positive digital culture that supports employee well-being.

The impact of the 2020 pandemic

Although the coronavirus outbreak will one day run its course, few organisations will fully return to the norms, cultures, policies and practises that were in place before the outbreak. It is therefore more incumbent upon organisations than ever to understand how to apply technology in ways that enable collaborative, flexible, productive and healthy working practises for the benefit of all.

Business leaders today have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reconsider how their organisations deploy technologies and digital tools to help improve workers’ health and well-being, and with it, their happiness and productivity.

Curb ‘always-on’ culture and employee burnout

Employees clearly see the value that workplace technology brings, but they just as clearly see its shortcomings. They want to unplug when they’re out of the (virtual) office, which can be difficult to do when they carry all the tools of their trade in their pockets. Some employers have taken steps to help reduce tech overload, but there’s room for improvement and demand from employees for support in this area.

Establish workplace policies

If your organisation provides staff with devices such as laptops and mobile/cell phones, you should set guidelines for acceptable and expected use to reassure staff that they - like their devices – don’t  need to be on all the time. These policies should be policed and enforced to remind and encourage staff that it’s ok to turn off at certain times of the day and week.

You may also consider including the following elements in your policy:

  • No-tech meetings
  • One-screen limits
  • Screen break timings
  • Time for a tech-free window
  • Time for a notification-free window
  • Information and support for individuals to build a ‘digital diet’ which helps people stick to healthy digital habits
  • Support initiatives by implementing a buddy system.

In addition, in a world where employees work from home, remotely or even internationally, careful consideration needs to be given to alternatives or schedules for in-person meetings which the data shows are of benefit to employees.

 

Read Digital Detox At Work for more detail on how these specific elements can work to help employees.

Communicate clearly

Communicate workplace policies and educate workers on how to keep work from bleeding into personal life. And that means limiting work-related communications to work hours.

Organisations operating internationally or across different time zones need to provide a degree of flexibility and trust when it comes to establishing boundaries for working hours and out-of-hours communications.

Lead by example

Model the balanced company culture you’re promoting. It’s important that business leaders lead by example. This is especially important as senior staff often struggle the most with work/life balance.

Be there, be present

Some practises, such as in-person meetings, might be difficult for international or virtual teams. Being available through one-to-one calls to offer emotional and professional support is a powerful way for leadership teams to explore new or improved guidance or support mechanisms to help meet employees’ needs.

Intervene

Many companies are able to monitor productivity. If you are, and you see productivity drop, talk to the individual(s) to ask if they’re feeling overwhelmed. This allows you to help the people who need it most, encourage them to tackle it and let them know that it’s ok to turn off. A personalised approach can work well for some, whereas others might benefit from having the opportunity to choose from a number of self-help apps.

Harness the power of virtual health and digital well-being

Individuals are becoming increasingly active consumers of digital health and well-being services. They’re Googling their symptoms, using Fitbits and mindfulness apps and tracking their health data online. Employers can therefore capitalise on workers’ desire for tech and digital solutions to help improve their health.

Many organisations and workers alike have also embraced digital health tools such as fitness trackers, joint mobile health applications and associated workplace wellness programs.

These tools can help employees establish goals, set fitness schedules and stay on top of their well-being by sending reminders whenever a member is due for a check-up, flu shot or repeat prescription.

Know your audience

Before you hand out Fitbits or launch a wellness initiative, engage with your workforce via surveys or one-on-ones to find out about their areas of concern, desired improvement and appetite for health and wellness apps.

Identify your priorities

Audit your employee population to identify health risks and high health claims. Combine this with the insights from the teams.

Personalise your approach

Identify what benefits your business needs, based on population demand and employee feedback, including relevant digital tools and services. Talk to your benefits provider or corporate health and wellness partner to see how they can support your programme.

Enable employees to help build the corporate culture

Data is power. It can be used to guide improvements in the health and well-being of populations, but employers must be sensitive to the concerns their employees might have around data privacy and how the information will be used.  

The best way to earn the trust of your employees is to involve them in defining how data will be used and how its use will be policed.

Employers therefore need to set clear data-use policies, educate employees and allow employees to share in the organisation’s future direction. To help alleviate concerns, organisations should establish policies to protect workers’ health data and ensure that workers are aware that they retain ownership of that data.

Inspire confidence and trust

Communicate your commitment to upholding data privacy and to empowering employees to own and retain control of their data. Ensure you do this before you undertake the next step of your digital education and engagement strategy.

Build the culture together

Give employees a voice and the chance to help shape the company’s culture and join the company on its journey through a shared sense of purpose and values. You might conduct a survey, hold one-to-one meetings or even designate a steering committee to ensure feedback is gathered and collated. Present initial findings and iterations of the proposed programmes back to teams for initial feedback and to remind them that they’re a part of the journey.  

You should aim for a digital culture where:

  • Company leaders clearly communicate the role of technology within the organisation
  • The organisation considers employee health and wellbeing when making decisions about technology
  • Employees are given technology support and training
  • Managers support and promote technology adoption
  • The workforce has on-demand access to information.

Celebrate success

If your use of anonymised health data leads you to start a program that yields measurable results, share that success with workers. Let them see the impact that analysing health data can have.

For more advice on remote working during the pandemic you can read articles in our resource hub.

If you’re an employer or broker looking for international private medical insurance for clients or staff, you can call us to discuss your needs. Get the right telephone number for your area, here.

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