In the era of teleworking, it is even more difficult to detach from the different electronic devices that are present on a daily basis and this can have consequences that are not so favorable to physical and mental health. Little by little, cyber fatigue is present in the daily lives of workers, but what does it consist of and how can it be prevented or treated?
Digital fatigue or cyber fatigue is a recognized state of mental exhaustion and disconnection that occurs when people must use numerous digital tools and applications simultaneously and continuously. Recent EY research found that over 40% of UK workers suffer from what is known as digital fatigue, and an even greater number of young adults feel the strain of almost constant exposure to technology.
“Recognizing that remote working has allowed us to be safe and productive, in some cases, increased productivity changed the way we interact and promoted the almost uninterrupted state of being online or connected. This takes hours in front of screens, learning to work on multiple platforms, causing many employees to experience the very real condition of digital fatigue”, explains Jaime Frischwasser, HR Manager at Prodigious Costa Rica.
Cyber fatigue can impair the ability to focus and attention, which in turn has a negative impact on how we learn, how we interact with others, and how we work. It can manifest itself in feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, depression, or decreased interest in a job. Physically, it can present as sleep disturbances, decreased energy, and even headaches or eye pain.
Identifying cyber fatigue in work teams
It is important that organizations listen carefully for signs of burnout and other natural responses to stress in their employees. Leaders must be able to manage the energy and mood of their organizations, adopting an adaptive approach that allows them to discover the path to solutions. This approach starts with a much deeper and more holistic way of listening than organizations are used to.
Some organizations are beginning to use technology-based crowdsourcing tools to tune in to what is really contributing to employee burnout. Such approaches allow organizations to directly reach a large part of the collaborator base and generate a rich body of knowledge.
“The back-to-back nature of video calls has made employees feel more disconnected than ever, especially from their leaders, with whom most touchpoints are viewed as transactional. In response, leaders are trying to create space on their calendars for informal connections that allow for casual, spontaneous and no-schedule interactions”, says Frischwasser.
Some strategies to combat digital exhaustion
The most effective way to combat digital exhaustion is to simply log out, log out, and relax. But it is not that easy -the demands of our 24/7 connected world make it nearly impossible to put aside our digital devices. These are some strategies that can be implemented:
• It takes a conscious intention to get away from a digital screen: Schedule mental health-focused breaks and put them on your calendar as a meeting. It is one thing to take a 15-minute break to mindlessly scroll through your device, but it is important to give yourself a chance to create space and unplug.
• Delivering customer service excellence is critical, but feeling continually exhausted is not good for business: It is important to set clear boundaries and make sure all necessary parts are in the loop. Creating intentional days for deep work tasks will also help you find more fluidity in your life, allowing you sustained productivity, creativity, and is key to unlocking your greatest potential.
• Many people feel the need to stop what they are doing and respond to messages as soon as they arrive: This constant sense of urgency can leave people feeling overwhelmed and anxious. To combat these feelings, it is generally recommended to use certain times of the day to reply to your text messages and emails.
• Your phone and computer allow you to stay in touch with your coworkers 24/7: Do you really need to keep in touch after business hours? Try to put your phone away when you are dining with the family, taking a walk or watching a movie. And what is more, do not check your work email before going to bed.
• How many online accounts do you have? How many social media platforms are you on? Do you need them all? Do you use them all? Probably, you do not. Go through your phone and computer and eliminate the things you do not want or need. It will reduce messages and distractions. It will add time to your day and peace to your life.