Using Technology to Stay Mentally Well at WorkDec 07, 2023
Technology is an integral part of our lives, offering convenience and connectivity. However, with many employees staring at computer screens for hours, not to mention the time spent on phones and televisions when logged out of work, we have to recognize the impacts our technological tools have on health and productivity.
Excessive screen time and the pressure to stay constantly connected can bring challenges. This includes eye strain, sleep disruption, and feeling mentally and cognitively overwhelmed by the non-stop flow of information. Yet, technology isn't solely to blame. It also presents innovative solutions that can benefit mental health in the workplace. There are apps designed to track and improve how we feel, tools that can help us reduce or manage workload, and virtual resources that improve access to healthcare.
Finding the right balance is key. Understanding how technology can support mental health without adding stress is crucial. Knowing about these tools empowers us to use technology smartly, improving our well-being both at work and in our daily lives. It's about making informed choices to harness tech's positive impact on mental health.
Screen Time, Technostress, and Zoom Fatigue
Experts have long warned us of the potential impact technology use can have on our mental well-being. Research shows that excessive screen time is associated with depression and anxiety. It can also lead to a loss of sleep from the impact of blue light on our sleep chemicals two to three hours before bed. The power of technology is so strong that even a smartphone within reach, even when turned off, has shown to significantly reduce cognitive performance.
Working in an always-on digital world can also produce “technostress.”1 Types of technostress include “techno-invasion,” which is when constant connectivity to work and the expectation of immediate responses can create heightened stress levels among employees. Another type is “techno-overload,” which is when juggling multiple digital tasks simultaneously leads to feelings of overwhelm. The digital information influx, from ad popups to instant message notifications to incoming emails, can also break productivity and reduce efficiency – leading to cognitive burnout.
With video conferencing shaping the way hybrid workers connect with employers, coworkers, and clients, “Zoom fatigue” is an additional mental health concern to consider. Frequent video calls can mentally tax employees in the following ways:
- Information processing. Video calls make our brains work harder to understand nonverbal clues, challenge our decoding skills by presenting us with multiple screens at once, and lead to continuous partial attention, which can be extremely mentally draining.
- Maintaining social interactions. Even without choppy video or delayed audio, conversing over video call can be awkward because of the lack of eye contact and the inability to support parallel conversations. The lack of body cues can also make it difficult to decode meaning when interacting with others.
- Blurring home-work boundaries. The lack of physical transition time from meeting to meeting can leave little time to mentally recharge, and the constant presence of work tools at home may pressure employees to stay logged in far past work hours.
Using Technology for a Positive Mental Health Impact
Amidst these challenges, technology also offers valuable solutions to bolster mental health. Virtual therapy sessions, accessed through video calls, bridge geographical gaps and enable employees to access mental health support discreetly and conveniently. Digital platforms provide enhanced communication channels, fostering a sense of connection and reducing feelings of isolation, particularly relevant in remote or hybrid work setups. Digital tools can also be used to reduce the overwhelm of work. Task management platforms and automation tools help in organizing workloads, reducing manual tasks, and promoting a sense of accomplishment—a vital aspect for maintaining positive mental well-being.
There are a variety of apps dedicated to improving mental health that can also be useful for employees. Here is a list of apps that can help you access new resources, develop strategies, and connect with others. Note: this is not an extensive list and there are many more that could be helpful depending on your unique mental health needs!
Applications for Mental Health
Meditation and Mindfulness:
- Calm – focuses on meditation, improved sleep cycles, body stretches and calming music to assist people with stress, anxiety and relaxation.
- Headspace – focuses on practicing mindfulness and meditation to decrease stress and increase focus and compassion.
- MindWell U – focuses on building resiliency, working in collaboration and creating mindfulness strategies that are personalized to the individual.
- Insight Timer – a free meditation app designed to help with sleep, anxiety, and stress
- Happify – on this app, play games designed to reduce stress, build resilience, and overcome negative thoughts. The ultimate goal is to make you happier while allowing you to work on a specific skill track.
- Shine – this is a self-care app that focuses on self-improvement. It includes meditations, a gratitude journal, a mood tracker, and an inclusive community where you can connect with other members at any time.
Mood Tracking and Improvement:
- MoodTools –helps users lift their mood through monitoring depression levels, a thought diary and a safety plan involving coping strategies, professionals to call, and more!
- Moodfit – designed to help you get into mental shape, this app helps you understand your feelings, track your moods, and dispute overly negative thoughts
- Mood Mission – helps you learn coping skills by recommending “missions” based on what the user is feeling
- Sanvello – provides techniques for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as provides users with CBT tools and a mood tracker.
- LifeArmor – with a target to the military population, this app aims to provide support for those individuals suffering from PTSD. Self-assessments assist an individual in managing problems relating to past trauma, anxiety, relationship issues, substance abuse and more.
- CBT Online – this website supplies several resources to assist an individual in changing their thoughts through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Resources include an online therapist through live chat, worksheets, journals, activity plans, tests, forums, and yoga.
Fitness and Exercise:
- Exercise apps like Sweat, Strava, FitOn, and Nike App – these applications can help track your exercise, provide you with exercise programs, and connect you with fitness experts across the world.
What Can Employers Do?
- Assist employees in setting boundaries around answering work-related emails after hours.
- Keep video calls to a minimum. Vary your communication using phone calls, emails, and group huddles to prevent information overload.
- Check into your team’s well-being before diving into meetings to ease the transition and create “watercooler” moments.
- Suggest ways that employees can manage their video call time and conserve energy while on these calls. For example, suggest that meetings are kept to once a week and that employees close down extra tabs and windows while on their calls to eliminate distractions.
- Provide and allow access to mental health applications in the workplace.
- Offer mental health resources such as virtual training or request the assistance of an Occupational Therapist to help employees find tools and strategies.
What Can Employees Do?
- Set boundaries for checking emails and logging into work.
- Shut off technology at least three hours before bedtime.
- Plug in your phone away from the bedroom to allow you to have uninterrupted sleep.
- Reduce cognitive overload by changing your video settings to speaker mode so you only see one person at a time.
- Use your screens intentionally. Distinguish between draining technological activity and nourishing technological activity.
- Use mental health applications to support your meditation and mindfulness practice.
How Can Gowan Consulting Help?
Occupational Therapists are the ideal mental health professionals for supporting your employees. Their knowledge of the workplace allows them to help modify jobs and environments and give employees to tools to develop personal strategies. They are not just talk therapists—they are activity and strategy-based and they empower employees to take ownership of their function and productivity. They practice work-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is an evidence-based approach to ensuring that employees can have better self-care and resiliency. We want to help your organization – make a referral for services here, learn more about our customized training, or book a consultation to learn more.
 Sharma, Kirti. (2023, May 11) What is Technostress? (+How to Deal with it). WhatFix. https://whatfix.com/blog/beat-workplace-technostress/