Last year, according to a Gallup study, global fear was at an all-time high, fueled by stress, worry, sadness and pain (and that was before the coronavirus pandemic changed everything). Further research has found that large amounts of unfocused online activity drives fear, making people less connected and more depressed.
Often, the story ends there, with the widespread conclusion that too much online time makes you unhappy. However, the same research also found that people can actually feel happier and more connected when they interact online with intention — as part of their job or with people they know well.
As learning and development (L&D) experts, it is time for us to help reframe the negative narrative about spending time online and talk, instead, about finding a healthy digital balance so that we can flourish as human beings and employees. The key is not the amount of time spent online but what we use that time for.
This year, the world changed overnight, and organizations everywhere have had to change with it. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we are more reliant on technology than ever before, which has the potential to lead to negative behaviors.
For the many people whose work has suddenly become virtual, digital balance is no longer a luxury; it’s a business and lifestyle imperative. Rather than dismissing all things digital as bad, we must dig deeper to question how, when, where and why we are using technology so that we can more effectively coexist in this dual society of online and offline worlds.
Digital flourishing, a term coined by the Digital Wellness Collective, refers to a mindful approach to digital technology that empowers people to benefit from technology while avoiding associated harms. In order to digitally flourish, we can enhance our skills in at least six areas that our digital behaviors relate to: mental health, physical health, relationships, productivity, well-being and responsible digital citizenship.
Here are a few tips that can help L&D teams everywhere support healthy technology use and digital wellness:
Set an Intention Rather Than Spending Hours Browsing Aimlessly
Before you log on, take time to consider your purpose for being online. Why are you online, and what are you hoping to achieve from your time? Use this intention to guide you, and keep coming back to it if you feel yourself wandering.
Make Sure Your Online Behavior Fuels Happiness
What about being online can help deliver on your purpose for being online and help you feel happy? Your purpose will keep driving you in the right direction, so keep coming back to it. Be sure you’re feeling joy in striving for something.
Develop Your Self-awareness
Self-aware people are your organization’s competitive edge, because self-aware people are self-assured people. Developing self-awareness at every level of your organization is a meaningful long-term investment.
As Ross Esplin, customer and digital director at Insights, says, “Increased self-awareness will help you thrive during the current disruption, as well as setting you up for digital wellness into the future. Self-aware people conduct relationships in a way that is mutually beneficial and respectful, resulting in improved communications and decision-making. That all helps us do our job better and stay centered when we’re physically distant from others and inevitably spending more time online.”
Examine Your Digital Behavior Through the Lens of Self-awareness
Increased self-awareness will help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses, what makes you happy and unhappy, and what motivates you. From this perspective, look at your online behavior and be honest with yourself. Dial into your data: Track how much time you are spending online, what you are looking at, and how it aligns with your personality and values.
For example, if one of your key values is family, but you are spending hours every day randomly browsing news articles or playing games online rather than enjoying time with them, maybe it is time to rethink your digital activity. If you value innovation in your work and are using online tools to come up with new, creative ideas to be productive in your role, then it is probably a good use of your time.
Ensure Positive Offline Behaviors Are Mirrored Online
Lastly, it is important to make sure that your positive behavior offline complements your online behavior by finding ways to build happiness and positivity. For example, you could spend time each day considering what you are grateful for and documenting it.
It is possible, by working hard to mitigate the unintended negative consequences of technology, to flourish in both our online and offline lives and help our teams to do the same. It is possible to use technology in a way that supports healthier relationships — not only with ourselves but with our families, our colleagues and our communities, too.