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How Companies Can Protect their Staff from Digital Overload

Those companies that neglect to protect their staff from digital overload, it will lead to anxiety, depression and poor performance.


COVID-19 pushed us deeper into our digital addictions. Internet use rose 70%, and social media traffic surged, in some cases by 50%, compared with pre-lockdown levels and Zooming became the new buzzword of 2020. CXOs believe there is no looking back as ‘we are all part of the Matrix now’. According to a recent study conducted by Cognizant, 60% of businesses will accelerate digital transformation over the next one to two years, 44% will shift physical jobs to digital ones, and 32% will have more of their staff work from home.

Indeed, digital acceleration will drive corporate productivity and profits, along with jobs and economic growth. If harnessed correctly, it will promote sustainability and lead to medical breakthroughs. But for companies that neglect to protect their staff from digital overload, it will lead to anxiety, depression and poor performance.

In a recent research paper, “The Timeline of Next” Manish Bahl, Associate Vice President, Center for the Future of Work, Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Clayton Griffith, Director of Product Marketing at Cognizant Softvision outlines four digital fail-safes that will become commonplace as we emerge from the pandemic and enter the next normal:

  1. Modify the workweek.

Organizations have already started to experiment with a shortened workweek to allow employees to unplug from technology. The four-day workweek has been tested by companies like Microsoft Japan, which reported an increase in productivity of 40% when it gave employees Fridays off for a month. Having employees work fewer days also reduces company costs, employee travel and carbon footprints.

The authors provide the example of Spanish Más País party, that is lobbying for the government to give grants to companies that shorten the workweek. Some companies are going further, replacing expectations of time spent at work with measurements of work delivered.

  1. Encourage employees to disconnect.

More companies are helping workers to unplug. Front App, a San Francisco-based startup, launched a program to award $200 to any employee who limits their screen time to less than 14 hours a month. Daimler allows its employees to auto-delete messages while on vacation.

According to the authors, more companies are prohibiting emails and texts after or before work hours. Regulations, such as the “right to disconnect” in France, are reinforcing the unplugging movement. Italy and Spain have already created their own laws, and other countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and India, are looking to follow suit.

  1. Equip offices with recharge rooms and wellness spaces.

During the first wave of the virus, New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital converted a 3,000-squarefoot lab into a series of recharge rooms to help front-line healthcare workers decompress. These rooms use plants, sunlight, multisensory experiences and other biophilic approaches to recreate natural settings. According to the experts, companies will follow this example by rethinking the full-office design to let outside air and nature in, and disease out, while providing greater flexibility for new ways of working.

  1. Improve digital hygiene at the workplace.

Companies will need to put more of their workers on “digital diets,” helping employees avoid excess digital consumption while boosting collaboration and idea-sharing. Measures will include “no-tech” meetings and electronics-free rooms where workers leave their devices at the door; apps that enable workers to track their digital use; regular work breaks away from screens; resources to help staff deal with techno-complexity; buddy systems that allow workers to support each other when detoxing; and workplace yoga and other activities to build “mindfulness.”

The digital genie isn’t going back in the bottle anytime soon. But rebalancing the online and offline is the hard work of the future, concluded the authors.

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