We live in a fast-paced, ‘always-on’ culture where modern communications preside over the way we live our lives both at work and at home, affecting our health and well-being.

The increased use of communication technologies is blurring the lines between work and non-work hours and making it harder to switch off from work. Research is also showing a clear link between technology, longer work hours and health problems. People’s access to too much information, clinically known as cognitive overload, can impair their ability to think clearly, learn new things and make decisions.

According to the TUC (Trades Union Congress), workers gave their employers a staggering £31.2 billion in unpaid overtime last year. In the CIPD’s 2018 Annual Survey of Health, Wellbeing and Absence, 87% of respondents admitted that technology was affecting their ability to switch off from work (a figure that has tripled since 2010).

Britain is known for its long hours work culture, but our productivity levels remain well below that of other G7 countries (16% lower according to the Office of National Statistics). If a long hours work culture is not good for employees and low productivity is not good for businesses, surely employers have a well-being responsibility to help their people use smart technology in smarter ways?

There are lots of practical steps that businesses can take to tackle technology-overload, but the success of any well-being initiative relies on establishing a sensible set of technology ground rules. How would your organisation answer the following questions:

  • What is a reasonable time period in which to respond to work emails and work texts?
  • How often are employees encouraged to take technology breaks?
  • When, if ever, is it acceptable to ask employees to return emails and calls whilst not at work or on scheduled holidays? (known as leavism)
  • How are employees supported when they work remotely or from home?
  • What assistance is given to promoting regular exercise and good nutrition at work?
  • What support is offered to reduce work rumination? (the process of thinking about work while not at work)
  • What are senior managers doing to lead by example?

Unfortunately, our reliance and over-use of technology is not just confined to work. FOMO (fear of missing out) and FOBO (fear of being off-line) are part of wider social, peer and personal pressures, making ‘switching off’ from devices hard to do.

Although employers can’t dictate what employees do outside work, they can help empower employees to take responsibility for the way they use technology. Organisations can start by creating more supportive work cultures that prioritise the health and well-being of all their people.

To find out more about how to establish well-being strategies and healthier workplaces, book your ticket to the CIPD Shropshire Branch’s first Well-being Event & Exhibition.

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