How Leaders Can Help Employees Unplug And Combat Digital Burnout

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Victoria Franca is a Board Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and Founder of Omne Wellness.

It’s no shock that in today’s hyper-connected world, it’s often difficult to separate ourselves from the digital devices that dominate our lives. With the use of smartphones, social media and other digital technologies, many of us are always connected to the internet and bombarded with information and notifications.

Experiencing personal digital burnout has been an incredibly overwhelming and draining journey for me as a founder. The constant bombardment of screens, notifications and pressure to always be connected has taken a toll on me. With the demand to maintain multiple online profiles and the blurred lines between work and personal life, it’s become clear to me that to support one’s emotional well-being, it’s important to take breaks, set boundaries and have hobbies that are outside of social media.

Digital burnout is a type of burnout that occurs when individuals experience excessive stress or exhaustion related to their use of technology. To much screen time can impact an employees’ work and personal well-being, including reduced productivity, poor sleep quality and increased stress.

Many people are turning to digital detox programs as a way to disconnect from their devices. These programs can take many forms, such as a weekend without using social media or retreats that offer total disconnection from technology. However, disconnecting from technology is not always possible for leaders. As such, my recommendation is to take a balanced and mindful approach to technology use, rather than trying to eliminate it altogether or doing something you would consider extreme. Start with slow changes such as setting limits on device use, practicing mindfulness when using technology and prioritizing time with family, friends, co-workers and loved ones.

Your company can also play a critical role in supporting digital detox efforts among your employees:

Encourage breaks and time off.

Encouraging employees to take regular breaks and time off can help them disconnect from their devices and recharge. This can include things like encouraging employees to take a lunch break away from their screens, promoting vacation time and creating a culture that values work-life balance.

With my team, finding a work-life balance has been an essential journey in prioritizing well-being and maintaining fulfilling personal lives. Initially, I found it challenging to establish boundaries and resist the temptation to constantly be connected to work. However, through open communication and collaboration with my team, we have worked together to create a supportive environment that values work-life balance.

One action we took that other leaders can consider is implementing flexible working hours. This can allow you to adapt your schedules to accommodate personal commitments and interests and open up space for your team to do the same.

Setting clear expectations and establishing efficient workflows is also essential. By doing so at my company, I have been able to optimize my productivity during working hours, which reduced the need for excessive overtime and allowed me to dedicate more time and energy offline to disconnect.

Provide education and training.

Many people might not realize the negative impact excessive technology use can have on their health and well-being. Providing education and training on the benefits of digital detox and how to disconnect from technology can help employees become more aware of their device use and make positive changes.

Some of the best resources that I’ve used personally and shared with my team have been:

• Books: Numerous books delve into the topic of digital burnout and provide practical guidance for managing it.

• Documentaries: Documentaries can offer an in-depth exploration of the effects of technology and digital overload on our well-being.

• Podcasts: Podcasts provide a convenient way to access educational content about digital burnout.

Set technology use guidelines.

Companies can set clear guidelines around technology use, including expectations around email and messaging response times, and encourage employees to disconnect during nonwork hours. This can help employees feel less pressure to be constantly connected to their devices.

Some examples of guidelines leaders might implement are:

• Email response expectations: Respond within 24 hours.

• Video calls: No video calls on Fridays.

• Internal messaging system: Check the message systems three times per day versus every hour.

Create digital-free spaces.

To help employees disconnect and recharge, designate specific areas or times when digital technology is not allowed. This could include things like creating a phone-free zone in the office or encouraging employees to leave their devices at home during company outings.

This might seem more complicated than it really is, but leaders should lead by example and adhere to the digital-free policy. When participants see that leaders are fully committed to the digital-free space, they are more likely to follow suit. Some great ways to introduce this without creating a specific space is by having offline activities to promote connection, creativity and relaxation. This can include group discussions, team-building exercises, art projects, outdoor excursions or mindfulness activities.

Offer digital detox programs.

Some companies are beginning to offer digital detox programs to support employee wellness. These programs can include things like wellness retreats, mindfulness training or opportunities to disconnect from technology during work hours.

To offer a successful digital detox program, it’s important to have three things:

• Clear communication and education: Many employees might not be aware of the potential negative impacts of excessive digital usage or the benefits of disconnecting. Provide information about the purpose, goals and benefits of digital detoxing can help employees understand the importance and motivate their participation.

• Support and encouragement from leadership: When leaders actively endorse and participate in digital detox programs, it sends a powerful message to employees that disconnecting from technology is not only allowed but also valued.

• Company culture: Leadership support of digital detoxing also creates a culture that prioritizes employee well-being. When this becomes a part of your company’s culture, I believe it can benefit the longevity of your business and your employees.

By taking these steps, companies can support their employees in their efforts to disconnect from technology. Ultimately, supporting disconnecting from technology can benefit your employees and the organization as a whole.

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