30 June 2021|Crisis Management, Latest Posts, Psychology
By Jonny Pelter. If you have any friends or colleagues who are doctors, you’ll know they get pestered with ad hoc questions from family and friends whenever a medical ailment crops up….“My knee hurts, what wrong with it?” or “Tom has a cough, what do I give him?”
Having worked in cyber security at some of the largest organisations in the world for over a decade, I found I was starting to get something similar, but for family online safety. Then when the pandemic hit and everyone’s digital wellbeing started to get affected by all the tech time and remote working, it was obvious people needed a service to help them balance their digital lives.
When regulation like the ‘Right To Disconnect’ was being proposed, it became very apparent that employers had a significant role to play in supporting their people’s digital health, and this was the inspiration behind launching Just Ask Max.
The acceleration of remote working during the pandemic plus the physical and mental well-being issues that have arisen as a consequence, has acted as the catalyst for employers to start looking after the ‘digital health’ of employees. Our service is different to anything currently available and is designed to help employees and their families use technology in a safe, secure and healthy way.
Similar to what we saw with Headspace and emotional wellbeing a few years back, we expect this new area of digital wellbeing to explode in the coming years. New regulation like the ‘Right To Disconnect’ and the majority of us (66%) now wanting hybrid working post-pandemic (Forbes, 2021), this market shift is already happening.
25% of employers have already moved to hybrid models, resulting in 4 – 5x more of us working remotely post-pandemic (McKinsey, 2021) and so a support service like Just Ask Max is going to be highly valuable for organisations running remote workforces.
The recent announcement from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has further highlighted the devastating impact of long working hours on our health and how this has worsened due to the pandemic as millions work from home and can’t ‘escape’ the office, digital health has simply never been more important.
Below I outline some easy-to-follow tips to help businesses help their employees with digital burnout
1) Keep phones out of bedrooms – Research has shown that simply having your mobile device in your bedroom, even if it’s turned off, significantly affects your ability to sleep soundly. Use a family charging station in a hallway to devices on to charge before bedtime ensuring that we getting a much sounder night’s sleep (and our kids don’t staying up late scrolling through social media channels too!)
2) Disable Self-View – research has shown one of the most fatiguing elements of remote working is seeing your image reflect back at you. This isn’t turning your video on and off, that affects whether others can see you or not. This is disabling that little box (usually in the bottom right of the screen) that reflects your video back to you, showing you what other people can see from your webcam. You can disable this ‘self-view’ in settings so that your webcam is still turned on and others can see you, but you’re not constantly looking at yourself on-screen.
3) Not every call has to be a Zoom Call – Since the pandemic hit, video meetings have been key to facilitating working from home, allowing us to interact with our teams and clients. A recent study by Microsoft (2021) found that back-to-back calls for most of us causes huge levels of stress and needs to be monitored closely by businesses. If the call is a one-on-one chat encourage your employees to have a chat on the phone. It allows both parties to step away from their screens and even go for a walk and get some fresh air whilst still being productive.
As we return to the office, look at the notion of “Room or Zoom”. Research suggests collaboration, innovation and creativity is affected if there’s a mix of people in the room and dialling in through video conferencing. If there’s a split, ensure everyone dials onto a call.
4) Cultivate ‘Deep Work’ – We do this at Just Ask Max and it helps our staff focus to plan their working week and have time to really focus on periods of ‘deep work’. You could even agree that there are no virtual meetings on a certain day of the week, so your staff get a full day to work without interruption. Practically speaking you try the following to achieve this:
· Use the in-built email filtering to sort emails and create folders where emails are sent automatically. Messages that you’re copied in on can be automatically marked as read and sent to a “review later” folder.
· Focus on quality emails and try to reduce the total number of emails you receive. Every spam email you get, unsubscribe or block the sender.
· Check emails first thing, then 9:30 – 11am each day, block your calendar out (so colleagues are aware), turn devices OFF when you need to tackle time-critical activities (not just on silent) and close your email.
5) Turn off – Nobody ever turns their devices off anymore, they only silence them or put them on ‘airplane mode’. The nature of being ever-connected, is having a real impact on our emotional wellbeing. When your employees finish their working day, encourage them to not just turn off their work notifications (email, slack, etc.) but turn their work devices off altogether. Working from home muddies the water between work and home life and setting a time when work related notifications are stopped allows your staff to enjoy an uninterrupted evening.
6) Delineate Working and Personal Areas – Every employer should be supporting their staff and ensuring they have the right working environment. For many businesses the pandemic has removed or certainly reduce the cost of office space and therefore should be providing their staff with the right equipment and advice to ensure they have the best possible environment to work from home. Having a specific working area allows staffs to step away from their work and stops it encroaching across their whole home.
Research (CNBC, 2020) shows having a plant and scented candle nearby can lift your mood. Keep your laptop in your working space only! Come the weekend – try not to live too much in your workspace to ensure you feel refreshed when you come back Monday morning!
7) Encourage Digital Breaks – Encourage your staff to step away from their desk during the day. Ensure management set rules to ban meetings, calls or emails during lunch breaks helping your staff step away from their screens during the day. If this becomes the normal, then staff should feel no obligation to work through lunch or check emails or notifications meaning they can reduce screen time without concern.
Take some time out every 90 minutes – go for a walk outside, listen to music, exercise or meditate. Avoid back to back calls and challenge yourself to 15 minute meetings to focus discussions. Use a Pomodoro timer to ensure you’re having the right types of breaks to help you maintain productivity, avoid becoming overwhelmed with digital distractions and help you to stay focused
Through the Just Ask Max platform, employees can get their home devices protected and get help improving their digital health.
We assess your digital well-being, then show how to develop healthier tech habits. This includes learning how you can protect your wider family online, how to work from home productively without losing focus to digital distractions and stay safe when working online to ensure you don’t become victims of cybercrime or the source of a data breach for your company.
We are on a mission to help work forces avoid digital burnout so they can enjoy a healthier relationship with technology. While financial, physical and emotional well-being have long been on the HR agenda, employers and their HR directors now have a duty of care to do more to understand and promote digital welfare in the workplace given the changes to the ways we are now working as a result of the last 12 months.
About the author
Jonny Pelter is the CEO and founder of Just Ask Max, a digital well-being service that helps you use technology in a safe, secure and healthy way.
Jonny started his career as a professional rugby player and played at a competitive level until his mid-20s before retiring and embarking on his next challenge. He decided to step out of his comfort zone and begin a new career in the business world and after being declined a number of times, managed to secure a place at Warwick University on a master’s course.
After graduating he quickly secured a position at KPMG in their information security team which sparked his interest in the world of cyber security. This passion accelerated his career and swiftly progressed with multiple promotions and eventually secured a senior management position at Deloitte.
Now an expert in this rapidly evolving sector, Jonny regularly commentates for media like the BBC News, Daily Mail, The Telegraph, etc. on topics of data security and privacy. He soon realised there was not only a huge knowledge gap but also genuine concerns from parents and businesses about how to keep their technology safe, secure and healthy and this was the inspiration behind Just Ask Max.
The digital well-being service, launched in early 2020, has already secured numerous clients and was one of a six UK tech start-ups picked by the National Cyber Security Centre to become an affiliated business and join the association’s accelerator alumni.