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a beginner’s guide to workplace digital wellbeing
04 Feb 2022

the what, why and how of initiating a digital wellbeing programme in the workplace

a beginners guide to workplace digital wellbeing - what, why and how?

Digital wellbeing considers the impact of technology and digital services on people’s mental, physical, social and emotional health. Here at techtimeout, we are passionate about improving digital wellbeing. Whether it’s in our personal or our work life, we all need to be more conscious of how we use technology.

There are numerous benefits of investing in digital wellbeing. This beginners guide will help you steer your business towards greater digital wellbeing and in the process mitigate the workplace stresses that often result in increased absenteeism and lower productivity.

why does my business need a digital wellbeing strategy?

Regardless of your business work model - hybrid, face-to-face or remote - managing digital wellbeing is one of the newest challenges for organisations when it comes to caring for the health and performance of employees.

A recent study of legal professionals by LawCare found that overuse of technology and the blurring of boundaries between home and work life with the availability of technology is a key contributor to burnout. 28% of research participants either agreed or strongly agreed that their work required them to be available to clients 24/7 and a staggering 65% said they checked emails outside of work hours to keep up with their workload.

Overall, health and wellbeing is affected by the use of technology in three main ways: Physical, Mental and Emotional

  • Physical
    Headaches, eye strain, sore neck, back, and shoulder muscles, an inability to relax, and hypertension are just a few of the common physical symptoms of unmanaged use of technology.
  • Mental
    Workers feeling overwhelmed by technology often have increased errors, reduced productivity, difficulty concentrating, and low morale. As they head towards total burnout they become depressed and mentally exhausted.
  • Emotional
    Technology, in particular social media, can cause panic and anxiety attacks, feelings of isolation, and irritability. It can also lead to less time for sustained thinking, work/life imbalance and reduced job satisfaction.

A workplace digital wellbeing programme will help your business address the symptoms outlined above. When integrated into the heart of the organisation, a digital wellbeing programme will embrace technology in a way that serves the worker and moves them towards greater productivity, rather than technology creating uncountable distractions or overcomplicating processes.

so, how do businesses, even small businesses, protect the digital wellbeing of their employees and roll out a digital wellness initiative?

Step 1 - Research and reassurance

The first step is to do some research which provides a comprehensive overview of your organisation's current digital health. Reassurances should be given as to the intention of the research as some staff will be reluctant to share personal information if they fear recriminations in the future. Additional data sources from HR, including staff absence, should be integrated into the findings. If you have an IT department, ask for reports relating to usage across all technical devices and break it into different demographics.

You should also aim to discover what employees want and need from a digital wellbeing strategy, although they may not recognise this at this early stage. A focus group may be the best format to extract this qualitative information. Be aware that remote workers may have very different challenges when it comes to creating healthy work/life balances.

Step 2 - Define the goals and aims of the wellbeing programme

Create a wellbeing programme based on the feedback collected. Some of your goals and aims may be:

  • To reduce absenteeism by 20%
  • To increase staff satisfaction (assessed by quarterly surveys)
  • To eliminate all out of hours communication
  • To reduce online communication between 1 and 2pm by 50% (increasing take up of a lunch break)

Step 3 - Shout it from the rooftops!

The next step is to promote your digital wellbeing programme and communicate its benefits to staff. If employee wellbeing programmes are built to achieve desired outcomes, effective internal communication to drive employee participation is a must. Many staff will not be aware of how much they use technology on a daily basis and an audit could be a good starting point. Providing staff with research about how regular breaks actually increase productivity and statistics from respected sources will help to demonstrate that there are sound reasons for unplugging and spending time away from your desk.

To encourage your employees to participate, you need to inspire them with useful and engaging internal content.

For example, you can use your social media platforms to publish a weekly wellbeing announcement with helpful videos, share employee stories, promote wellbeing training sessions, deliver free resources and other related content to keep digital wellbeing on top of your employees’ minds. Assign or appoint digital leaders who would lead by example and encourage others to participate in offline activities. They can invite colleagues to join them for a workout class, start a walking club during lunch breaks, or lead a health challenge for the office.

On a company level, you can also participate in techtimeout's annual techtimeout tuesday in November to reinvigorate the programme.

Step 4 - Lead from the top

Leadership in the company should set an example by creating a culture that encourages disconnecting from technology. A lunchtime running club organised by the MD will speak volumes in reassuring staff that it's OK to leave your desk. Engagement will be higher when it is socially acceptable and fun to participate.

Step 5 - Integrate digital wellbeing into staff appraisals

Employers should continuously encourage employees to participate in the wellbeing programme and make suggestions for improvements. This approach helps employees better understand their role in creating a culture of digital wellbeing. When you spot those employees who are actively engaged, make them your wellbeing champions and ambassadors. Those employees who are passionate about creating happier, healthier, and more resilient work environments can also help you spread the word and even help you launch the programme in new office locations or to new recruits.

Managers should also consider the impact of digital workload within staff appraisals, performance management and continuing professional development (CPD) activities

Step 6 - Measure the impact frequently

Understanding the impact of your digital wellbeing initiatives will enable you to adapt and hopefully stay several steps ahead of anything that could undermine the health and wellbeing of your workforce. Aside from integrating reviews into staff appraisals, include it in staff exit interviews and other points of employee contact.

how can techtimeout help your business develop a digital wellbeing programme?

At techtimeout we offer multiple routes for businesses to roll out digital wellbeing initiatives. All year round, we start businesses on the techtimeout10 challenge. The techtimeout10 challenge is designed to raise awareness of the dependency we have on technology and the benefits that can be had from truly disconnecting from our screens and devices.

Our techtimeout team will help your organisation to plan a 10 day challenge to spend a chosen amount of time participating in tech-free activities. With support on how to promote and organise your activities, your business can join hundreds of others and start the challenge by clicking here.

Additional information

LawCare’s ‘Life in the Law 2020/21’ full report can be found here.
To read a case study about how a law company developed its digital wellbeing strategy click here.