Today, the modern knowledge worker begins their workday long before their morning coffee. By 9 am, they’d already peered into nine work-related emails, sent four replies, and accepted two meeting invites. By the time they arrive at their desk, they will have scrolled through dozens of social media posts and text messages.
As many of us now work from home and are constantly glued to a screen, what’s described above is a one-way track to digital burnout: an epidemic that has plagued the post-covid workplace.
It is reported that 30% of employees in America suffer from digital burnout, leading to increased stress, anxiety, depression, and other adverse health effects. As an executive, it’s crucial to implement day-to-day initiatives to fight this tide of mental and physical stress and ensure your team is functioning optimally.
With the perpetual balancing act between work and life, digital burnout is becoming an inevitable epidemic. However, there are ways to prevent it from becoming a chronic condition that plagues you day in and day out. The tips below will help you maintain a balanced mind and body at home and at work.
What To Look Out For
Digital burnout can manifest in one’s physical and mental health. Symptoms may be experienced gradually and mimic general burnout.
- Exhaustion or energy deficit
- Loss of motivation
- Loss of interest in the job
- Decrease in professional efficacy
- Eye strain or screen headache
- Insomnia or change in sleep habits
- Anxiety or irritability
Lead By Example
As an executive, you must set an example for your team. If you want them to work efficiently and effectively, you must do the same. As a leader, you set the tone for the team’s workflow, productivity, and motivation.
If you want your team to take care of themselves by practicing self-care techniques like meditation and mindfulness training, ensure you are also making those decisions. Set boundaries with your technology and make time to disconnect from the screens.
If you're an executive, it's also essential to take regular breaks. Even if you have employees responsible for managing their own time, you should still set an example by taking breaks yourself.
Create a zone for technology-free breaks, where the team can relax and recharge without the sound of notifications ceaselessly pinging.
Discuss the Pomodoro Method with your team, a time-management method that can help avoid digital burnout. With this strategy, all of your tasks are broken down into 25-minute chunks called pomodoros. Then, individuals will work on one task until the timer goes off before moving on to the next or taking a five-minute break. This also helps prevent multitasking because it forces you to focus on one thing at a time instead of trying to do multiple things simultaneously.
Research shows that multitasking is one of the top causes of digital burnout because employees are flipping from one screen to the next and never focusing on one task. Between iMessage, Teams, Google Meet, Slack, Email, Zoom, and social media, employees swipe through countless platforms every hour—and that’s not counting any SaaS tools they may rely on.
Avoid multitasking during video meetings. It's tempting to answer emails while you're on a Zoom call, but if you're distracted by email notifications or text messages, it’ll be impossible to focus entirely. It’ll also result in your team being overloaded and overstimulated.
Provide Anti-Burnout (Wellness) Resources
Provide anti-burnout, wellness resources. Employees who feel overworked and overwhelmed by the amount of work they have may benefit from having access to resources that help manage stress. These resources may include tools like meditation apps or mindfulness training programs, which aim to help people take time off work and focus on their well-being instead of burning out at their desks.
Other resources may include benefits used to relax and disconnect leisurely, ensuring that executives encourage time off.
Programs like EXEC provide members with various exclusive perks, such as travel discounts, luxury shopping, and unique experiences. These benefits will prompt the team to put the laptop down and take that much-needed vacation.
Whether working from home or in the office, everyone can easily slip into the same habits: checking email over lunch, staying late to catch up on Slack messages, or overusing social media.
The takeaway here should be that on a company-wide level, as well as an individual level. Social media accounts, smartphones, and other devices aren't going anywhere. Instead, they will continue to proliferate for the foreseeable future. That being said, we should still be conscious of these digital devices' impact on our lives and exercise restraint with technology.