Digital technology is advancing every day, and it is mandatory for businesses in all fields and individuals to stay in line with the upcoming trends. While using digital technology has made things easier for many, it also has a downside to it.
So the question arises – Is using digital technology good or harmful to employee health and wellness?
Does technology alleviate comfort or does it inflict more harm to overall health and wellness?
With millions of people across the globe leaning towards technology for most of their everyday tasks, it becomes a baffling question. Also, with the current COVID-19 pandemic forcing employees to work remotely, the nuances about the impact of digital technology on employee health and wellbeing are one to be addressed.
Although the remote-working options were already under the spotlight for many white-collared employees in the US, the COVID-19 pandemic had forced others also to follow suit. A Stanford study revealed that with remote working becoming the new normal, the age-old stigma about working from home has been wiped out. In fact, many companies may continue to allow remote working for most of their employees even after normalcy resumes.
With the current work-from-home module, the economy is hugely dependent on modern digital technology. In addition to the previous communication tools like emails and smartphones, the current situation has driven tech-giants to put out new collaboration platforms for smooth planning and running of the workflow. Right from holding virtual meetings to sharing tasks and reporting them, everything seems to be going on well with the right use of technology.
Despite making work-related things easier at such uncertain times, studies show that using digital technology may also impact employee health and wellbeing negatively, especially mental health.
While the advanced digital technology is proving to a positive force to reckon for running the business, it may stress employees and be a major reason for workplace burnout issues. This can also be dealt with by accessing wellness technology-based educational resources and tools that help in managing stress and adopt healthier choices.
Impact Of Digital Technology On Employee Health
Aetna International conducted a study on 4,000 employees from medium and large-sized employees from around the USA, the UK, Singapore, and UAE, to know how technology impacts and promotes employee health and wellness, especially mental wellbeing.
The key outcome of the study is that digital technology does not have a completely harmful effect nor does it have a totally beneficial impact on the mental wellbeing and holistic wellness of the employees.
Based on the Aetna study, here are 4 ways by which technology impacts employee health and wellness.
Overusing Digital Technology Can Be Harmful
Almost 2/3rds of the Aetna study respondents said that the first thing they did in the morning after waking up was to check their phones for work-related messages. They are not alone, and most of the employees across the globe probably do the same.
The study also revealed that –
- 70% of the respondents felt they would spend more time exercising if they spent lesser time on their computers.
- 65% said they checked their phones even on weekends and holidays for work-related updates.
- 64% said using their personal computers for long times damaged their vision.
- 64% worried that they were using their smartphones for long times.
76% of respondents said that they would want their employers to take extra measures and set restrictions on using technology out of working hours. Another study revealed that employees expected more health and wellness support from their employers.
Employers can make it clear to the workforce that they do not have to be available for work-related queries at all times, especially outside work hours. They can also assign wellness challenges that can help employees have a proper work-life balance, while spending lesser time on technology-based gadgets.
Technology Can Help With Time Management
Although technology can demand employees of their time towards work, it can ease the workflow. The communication can be made easier, having access to the right information is faster, and it improves the overall employee productivity too, helping them meet their work deadlines on time.
- Almost 80% of the Aetna study respondents said that digital technology provided them the right support tools to communicate better with the co-workers, assists in better workflow across different working locations, and also, enables completing all the tasks easily, as per schedule.
- 84% of the respondents agreed that technology helped them maintain a better work-life balance, especially while working remotely.
- About 75% of the respondents said that technology reduced their stress by helping them manage their workloads efficiently, giving them more time for their personal wellness activities.
So, it was clear that many employees thought technology to be helpful to them to manage their work and personal lives, and it was clearly not a threat to their mental health or holistic wellness.
Technology Can Improve Physical Health and Fitness
Many Aetna experts say that using the right wellness technology with its innovative tools can help many employees improve their health and wellness.
Studies show that many employees are gladly willing to embrace digital health solutions, if offered by the employers.
- 82% – were ready to use or were already using a fitness tracker.
- 76% – were ready to use or were already using apps that offer health tips and allow tracking physical activity.
- 65% – were ready to use or were already using video coaching
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of gyms, restricted group gatherings for yoga classes and other physical activity sessions, the fitness classes have now become virtual. Employers can allow employees to track their fitness devices or tracking apps with their corporate wellness programs. Having a worksite wellness app for your wellness program can make it even better for the employees to log and track their daily physical activity.
Digital Resources To Manage Mental Health
Due to the COVID-19 enforced remote working, mental stress is on the rise now. Since meeting a counselor in person is not possible with the social distancing norms, utilizing the right digital resources for virtual mental health consultation could be of great use to the employees.
Many employers were already offering mental wellness programs as a part of the corporate wellbeing programs. With the shift towards remote working getting higher with the pandemic, virtual counseling and mental wellness resources are something that many employees are glad to receive from their employers.
- 69% of employees said they are already or are ready to get connected to mental health counselors via phone
- 66% of employees said they are already using or are ready to use virtual mental health coaching
- 61% of employees wanted their employers to help them with mental wellness through digital workplace technology.
The pandemic has socially isolated people, and the feeling of loneliness, anxiety, and multiple responsibilities has stressed them out. Offering educational resources and tools supported by digital technology through corporate wellbeing programs is a great way to ease employee mental stress.
Efficient employers identify and understand the impact of digital technology on employees. Right from the need for the employees to unplug after a hectic day’s work or the constant pressure to stay connected, employers need to recognize it all and take measures to avoid any workplace burnout issues. They must invest in advanced wellness technology that centers on keeping employees healthy.
The COVID-19 has changed the way of running a business and the employer’s perspective about employee health and wellness. Also, employers are now taking all measures to ensure employee wellbeing, by being more empathetic and making the working policies more flexible and welcoming. And by investing in the right digital technology, they are taking an extra step that could help during this huge shift.