Survey Results: How Screen Time Impacts Employee Wellbeing

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Amie ThurlowOutreach Executive at Further Digital Marketing

Monday, August 31, 2020

With more employees currently working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, workers are now more reliant on technology than ever before. From video conference apps to internal communication platforms, new advancements in workplace technology have made the transition to home working an easy one for many.

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A recent survey, conducted by global health insurance provider, Aetna International, in the months before the pandemic began, has revealed that 3 in 4 office workers agree restricting screen time would benefit their mental and physical health. The survey, which consisted of 4,000 employees in the UK, the US, Singapore and the UAE, uncovers the effects of workplace technology on wellbeing and how we can begin to make adjustments to our relationship with digital tech moving forward.

The impact of screen time on physical and mental health

A sedentary lifestyle can have extreme consequences for our physical health, however working from a computer all day leaves many of us with little time or opportunity to get moving. The majority of employees surveyed feel that sitting at their computer for long durations has in fact hindered their physical health with 70% of respondents agreeing that they would exercise more if they spent less time at their PC.

On top of this, the overuse of technology can lead to feelings of burnout, loneliness and anxiety, especially as we continue to work remotely for an extended period of time. Employees from around the world agreed that the overuse of technology in the workplace has had negative effects on their mental health with just over half revealing that the overuse of communication platforms and internal emails increases their stress levels.

In order to address this, three in four agreed that restricting the use of screen time in the office would help them to better manage their mental health.

The demand for access to digital health solutions

While the overuse of technology can have damaging, long lasting effects on our mental and physical health, there are many positive aspects of technology when it comes to making healthcare more accessible. Employees were eager to see an increase in access to online physical and mental health appointments, with 77% agreeing that this would enable them to better manage their physical health whilst 66% agreed this would benefit their mental health.

With modern technological advancements making healthcare and medical advice available from the tips of our fingers, employees were also interested in seeing input from their employer when it comes to using such technology to maintain and improve their health. For example, 69% of employees feel that an employer-provided Smartwatch or Fitness Tracker (e.g. Fitbit) would help them to work on their physical health whilst 63% believe that their mental health could be improved upon if their employer provided them with mindfulness apps such as Headspace

Despite the apparent negative impact of workplace technology on employee wellbeing, many respondents of the survey still felt that technology could conversely have a beneficial impact on their physical health if used for the right reasons.

The pitfalls of mobile phone use outside of office hours

While digital advancements have made working from home an easy adjustment during the pandemic, with it has come the pressure to stay ‘switched on’ during the evenings, weekends and even on vacation. In fact, a massive 65% of employees check their phone for work-related messages over the weekend whilst 64% are checking their phone for work-related messages even whilst on vacation.

Workplace policies to prevent technology overload could be the solution to this issue with 64% of respondents agreeing that this would benefit their wellbeing. Such policies could help workers to structure their time and limit the use of technology both within and outside of working hours. Despite this, less than half of employers are providing such guidance, leaving employees to struggle with balancing their usage.

With many of us new to remote working, understanding how to maintain a work-life balance has been challenging. Whether it's feeling obliged to work past regular hours or checking emails well into the evening, working remotely inevitably blurs the line between our professional and home lives. With a lack of guidance or support from employers, employees are starting to feel the strain of home working on their mental and physical health.

The health and wellness opportunities afforded by tech

While the overuse of tech was a concern for many respondents, employees also understood that modern workplace technology has allowed them to reap the benefits of working remotely. For many of us, working from home offers better opportunities to take care of health and wellbeing thanks to flexible schedules, a lack of stressful commutes and more comfortable working environments.

Respondents of the survey agreed that working from home can have positive effects on their wellbeing with 73% revealing that they’re able to find more time to look after their physical health whilst 77% agree that working from home helps to improve their mental health.

Employees in the UK, however, are the least likely to feel the benefits of remote working compared to the other countries surveyed with 32% agreeing that working from home makes them feel more stressed compared to the 19% regional average. Whilst, for many, remote working offers better opportunities to stay healthy, the added pressure to overwork and remain ‘switched on’ at all times can make working from home a struggle. In this case, employers should look to put strategies in place to support employees and prevent them from experiencing burnout.

Is remote working the future?

As many of us continue to work from home despite the lifting of lockdown restrictions, it’s important to consider how technology has impacted our own mental and physical health. With the majority of respondents agreeing that they would like to see changes made to policies concerning screen time usage, both during and outside of working hours, it’s time for employers to address this and make suitable adjustments to improve employee wellbeing.

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Amie Thurlow

Outreach Executive at Further Digital Marketing

https://www.further.co.uk/

Amie Thurlow is a content writer and digital PR professional at Further Digital Marketing. She works on consumer research and creative content for clients in a range of industries, including Waterlogic.

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