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Category: Expertise strategy

People-centric leadership: Tips for fostering digital well-being at work

This article equips team leaders with strategies for fostering digital well-being in the workplace, empowering them to guide their teams through the challenges that come with prolonged screen-time, hybrid work, and other factors of digitalisation in a modern workplace.

Emma Daly, Business Consulting Director

Digital technology surrounds us on all sides. We rely on it in our personal lives and it dominates the business world, with the two often overlapping through the hybrid working trends of recent years.

Alongside the greater efficiencies that technology enables, there is an equal risk of reduced productivity through stress. Business leaders increasingly need to pay attention to the digital well-being of their teams, and themselves, to minimise this risk.

Finding the right approach and tools can be a challenge and a balancing act to make sure that teams are engaged and responsive, but know when to disconnect. In this article, we look at the challenges at play and explore ways that business leaders can work towards building digital wellness of their teams, particularly for employees working with IT development.

 

The digital dilemma

In 2023, users aged 16 to 64 globally spent an average of six hours and 37 minutes daily on screens, comprising 40% of their time. The constant connectivity of mobile phones may contribute to stress and anxiety, fostering habits like after-hours messaging and work.

Software developer working on code

Beyond mental well-being, prolonged use of mobile phones and computers can result in physical conditions such as repetitive strain injuries, trigger finger, and tech neck. This is particularly concerning for IT developers whose tasks are comprised of almost 100% screen-work. Stress can manifest physically through muscle tension and heightened pain sensitivity.

These are just some of the potential mental and physical effects of today’s digital age. Business leaders are as prone to these effects as anyone they may manage, but work culture filters down and those leading an organization should weave digital well-being into their management practices.

Leading by example and remaining alert to the risk of burnout among their teams are key to this.


 

The first step in addressing any issue is to acknowledge it and then talk about it.

 


Fostering healthy digital practices

To ensure happy employees and continuous results from their work, we prepared a list of suggestions which team leads can employ in their leadership strategies.

 

1. Setting boundaries

Without setting clear limits to when employees should and should not be available, the working day effectively never ends and the line between work and personal life becomes blurred. This can quickly lead to burnout.

Leaders need to encourage their teams to respect non-working hours and must not expect, or seek, interaction out of hours. This sets the tone for a healthy work culture in which employees’ personal time is valued and they can come back to work feeling refreshed.

 

2. Taking digital timeouts

Taking time away from screens is important but easy to forget, or purposefully skip when work volumes are high. But even taking micro-breaks of just a few minutes on a regular basis, ideally involving some physical movement or fresh air, can boost efficiency and help to prevent stress. Innovation and optimum productivity require a focused mind, which cannot be achieved whilst exhausted.

Manager promoting a positive work environment with consultants.

Work sprints can also be a way for managers to encourage focused bursts to complete specific tasks, followed by a screen break. In offices, screen breaks are also an opportunity for social interaction and relationship building in teams, which is particularly important where team members spend a significant amount of their week working from home.

The speed of a message cannot compare to the time it takes to pick up the phone or meet a colleague in person. However, occasionally choosing the human approach is the better way to work, not just in the motivational boost that a screen break and social interaction bring, but also in the ideas and rapport that can spring from actual conversation.

 

3. Education of good practice

The first step in addressing any issue is usually by acknowledging it and then talking about it. Engaging employees on the topic of digital wellbeing such as in team meetings is a move in the right direction. It encourages awareness, and acknowledgement of where a healthy and sustainable balance has perhaps not been struck.


 

To foster a healthy and productive work culture, business leaders need to encourage their teams to find the balance between work and downtime

 


Holding regular sessions or workshops, ideally led by a wellbeing expert, can further drive this agenda and furnish employees with tools and good practices to manage their own relationship with technology and their digital well-being.

Aside from these three focus areas, there are various simple measures that business leaders can encourage employees to take on board to support well-being. Examples include using applications that help to track and manage screen time and prompt breaks, minimising notification settings, and using ‘do not disturb’ settings when appropriate to enable disconnection.

There are also a growing number of apps that specifically support digital well-being, encourage mindfulness and other positive practices, such as Headspace.

IT specialist working from home.

Lead by example

To foster a healthy and productive work culture, business leaders need to support and encourage their teams to find the balance between work and downtime, and, where possible, set a positive example.

Where leaders clock off in good time and actively take breaks such as at mealtimes, employees will feel that it is ok for them to do the same and be encouraged to do so. This, in turn, will help leaders to manage their own digital wellbeing and prevent stress.

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