Our overall wellbeing is determined by the physical and emotional experiences we have on a daily basis. As technology continues to be an unavoidably huge part of our lives, it too has an impact on our wellbeing. This is often referred to as your “digital wellbeing” or “online wellness.”
Digital wellbeing is a term used to describe the impact of technologies and digital services on people’s mental, physical, social and emotional health. In part, it involves identifying and understanding the positive benefits and any potential negative aspects of engaging with digital activities and being aware of ways to manage and control these to improve wellbeing. It also includes having an awareness of how being online can make us feel and looking after ourselves and others when online, including recognising the impact being online can have on our emotions, mental wellbeing and even on our physical health and knowing what to do if something goes wrong.
Our digital wellbeing can be influenced by the choices we make online, the content we see, the interactions we have with others and even how long we spend engaging with technology and the internet.
Now more than ever we find ourselves surrounded, or at worse consumed by technology which has become a huge part of our lives. Apart from increased use of social media, for both personal and work life, numerous research we may be required to embark on in order to remain effective; we also find ourselves navigating through various digital and/or virtual platforms from Zoom, Teams, Google, Skype, WhatsApp etc., all with the aim of increasing productivity.
Although we may succeed at becoming more effective and productive, the increased use of technology can also have detrimental effects on us. In certain industries employees are required to be ‘Always-on,’ i.e. to be contactable and accessible at all times. This no doubt blurs whatever lines remained between personal and work life.
With always being connected and always-on, one encounters constant notifications which, although they help in ensuring that we are ‘on top of things,’ it can also become a barrier to productivity.
‘Always-on’ employees are impacted by the negative impact of this phenomenon ranging from diminished work performance, increased cognitive load (i.e. the amount of information that working memory can hold at one time) and diminished wellbeing. This is worsened by the fact that often during down time rather than shutting down, most people default to other screens in order to catch up with social media, or even play games.
Apart from impacting on sleep patterns, due to the extended exposure to the blue screen light from mobile devices, technology also has an impact on other aspects of social wellbeing, enabling us to connect with people across continents and different time zones, often at the expense of in person and face-to-face relationships with those who are around us, who may unfortunately feel neglected.
Research shows that constant connection, alerts from our devices etc., can be distracting and can also add to increased anxiety levels and contribute to technostress, therefore taking a heavy physical and emotional toll, ultimately impacting well-being and work engagement.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom and neither is the solution in your employer’s hands. There is something you can do to improve your digital well-being. Some digital work well-being tips include:
Reduce or filter information and time spent catching up on non-urgent information.
Reduce the amount of notifications from your apps or even turn off unnecessary notifications. Rather permit sound notifications from humans, rather than from apps.
Use technology to foster continuous learning and skill development, build positive changes and improve career development. Be on the lookout for online courses, or thought provoking and inspirational talks such as TED talks.
Remember, the key to digital wellness lies not only in limiting the amount of time spent online; it also includes effective use of time spent online in a way that is supportive of overall health and well-being.
While technology will continue to dominate our everyday lives, we do have some control over how we use it to flourish, digitally and otherwise rather than fade away. Technology and the internet should be used to enhance and simplify our lives rather than for it to be a cause of distraction or anxiety.
How technology works out for us is in our hands. Take control and take effective steps to improve your digital wellbeing.
Starting today 21st September 2021, from 13h00- 13h30, MISA shall be providing a 10-part series of practical and accessible webinars for MISA members. This is intended to assist members in acquiring knowledge, skills and competencies to ensure that they are future fit and able to navigate work and life in general. Amongst some of the topics of the MISA Lunch and Learn series, MISA members shall be assisted with “Dealing in a Digital World.”
If you are interested in joining and benefiting from these virtual training sessions, do not hesitate contact us at Training@ms.org.za.