Did you know that phones and devices are designed to appeal to our psychological weaknesses?
Technology cause neurobiological changes in our brains making employees more susceptible to digital distractions and dependance.
The pings and alerts trick our brains into thinking everything is important and urgent.
We experience a ‘state of insufficiency’ because there’s always more emails, notifications, calendar reminds pinging and piling up.
We get hits of dopamine as we watch the metrics of unopened Slack/Jira notifications decline as we plough through tasks.
Yet this dopamine hit stops our impulse control centre from working effectively, so we can get stuck doing these ‘light’ tasks instead of carving out time for productive ‘deep’ work.
Technological tools that permeate our workplaces have literally been designed to hijack our attention and to be VERY addictive.
Technology has permeated every facet of our lives, but what impact is it having on employees and organisations?
Employees’ digital behaviours are undermining organisational productivity and impairing their physical health and mental wellbeing.
This causes low employee engagement, setting up behaviours which are hard to break.
The Brain Cannot Multitask
Multitasking takes approximately 40% longer to complete each task than monotasking9
Multitasking prevents information from being properly encoded by the brain
After a distraction, it takes the average adult 23 minutes and 15 seconds to reorient their attention. This is called the ‘resumption lag’10
Multitasking increases error rates, depletes mental energy and releases a stress hormone in the brain which in turn makes it harder for employees to commit details to memory
Employees attempt to compensate for distractions by working faster and multitasking. However, this results in higher stress levels and more frustration as well as increased time pressure and effort, which impairs decision-making and performance11
With modern technology meetings are now easier to organise than ever before. The ease of implementation and inclusion has resulted in more meetings being conducted and more employees being invited to meetings (it’s so easy to quickly send a calendar invitation- we call this the ‘zero cost of inclusion’).
This has signficant costs to productivity as meetings erode time available for what professor of computer science Cal Newport refers to as ‘deep work’.
MIT Sloan Management Review revealed that executives spend 23 hours per week in meetings12
Unnecessary meetings cost US business an estimated $37 billion per year in salariess13
Employees completed 22% less work before a scheduled meeting than they did when there were no meetings on the horizon. Meeting anticipation hampers output.
In recent years, digital technologies and the collaboration opportunities they promised have prompted many organisations to reconfigure their office design and adopt open plan layouts.
However, the predicted productivity and performance gains that were anticipated did not materialise in most cases. Ironically, technological disruptions have been shown to increase in workplaces with open office designs as there is less face-to-face collaboration.
We have a new cultural norm: being busy and always working.
‘Busyness’ is often worn as a badge of honour. We take advantage of extra work mobility at the cost of natural breaks. Ubiquitous access to technology has certainly fuelled the ‘busyness’ culture that is rampant in many workplaces today. The digital technologies and flexible work arrangements that were supposed to make workplaces more agile and responsive have resulted in employees feeling perpetually busy.
Our current 24/7 work environment - always connected, always ‘on’ - is contributing to employee overwhelm. The ubiquitous adoption of mobile technologies ensures a growing overlap between employees’ work and personal lives. Coupled with increased use of social media, many employees’ mental health is compromised because of their technology behaviours.
Impaired Physical Health
Unhealthy digital behaviours are posing significant risks to employees’ physical health. Technology habits are compromising both the quality and quantity of sleep which has direct and substantial costs on employees’ wellbeing and performance. Increased rates of myopia, concerns of noise-induced hearing loss, increased sedentary behaviours and incorrect ergonomics are some of the concerning consequences of digital habits that are impairing employee health.
And if we haven’t met yet...
Dr Kristy Goodwin is one of Australia’s leading digital health, wellbeing and productivity experts. She is regularly called upon by national media outlets for her opinion and invited to speak to a diverse range of organisations and businesses (both big and small) around the country. Dr Kristy is a confident, compelling and highly relatable presenter who provides practical and realistic solutions to deal with digital dilemmas in your workplace.