By: Rebecca Monk, HR Director, Softcat
Since March 2020, many of us have been working from home either full-time or more than we used to. And despite COVID-19 restrictions easing and life slowly returning to normal, hybrid working is here to stay.
This new way of working has some huge benefits, like reducing the stresses of commuting, boosting productivity away from office distractions and giving us more flexibility to get other important things done around work.
But the rapid shift to remote working and our over-reliance on technology has left many people finding it hard to disconnect and switch off – at the expense of our mental health.
In fact, according to research, 86 percent of workers find it hard to switch off outside work hours. And this has only worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic blurred the lines between work and home.
So, this Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16th May), here’s 5 simple tips to help make workplace tech work for you…
1.Stop and think before sending an email out of hours
You may have something urgent to tick off your to-do list before you clock off but be conscious colleagues will be winding down for the day.
Before you send that email or message late at night, think – do I really need an instant response? If the answer is no, save it in drafts and send it when you know people will be online.
It’s easy to create a culture where out-of-hours communication is normal. So, it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect the downtime we all deserve and need. Switching off notifications on your devices can help avoid the temptation to check-in too.
2.Take regular screen breaks
At home, it’s easy to sit in front of your computer screen all day. The distractions and interruptions you’d normally get in a busy office aren’t there.
Screen breaks – just for five minutes every hour – aren’t time wasters. Taking short breaks with a longer break for lunch can prevent decision fatigue, boost energy levels, increase focus and creativity, and lower stress. They can also prevent physical problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and musculoskeletal issues.
To help you remember to take breaks, set up reminders to move on your smartwatch or phone. And encourage your team to do the same!
3.Go back to basics
Workplace tech has made our lives easier, but it doesn’t mean you have to use it for everything.
Meetings without visuals can be good old-fashioned phone calls. If you’re doing training for different colleagues or teams, record a video to avoid repeated Zoom or Teams calls.
Think about what you could do with just pen and paper, like planning your day; outlining a memo, article, presentation; or sketching out a design. When you have something long and detailed to read, print it off and make notes. If your task demands creativity or problem-solving, try brainstorming while you’re walking, doodling, or even taking a mid-morning shower (we’ve all been there!).
4.Know your numbers
Applications and platforms are getting smarter, giving you the ability to check how you spend your time in the virtual office and keep a tab on your hours worked and screen time.
New features in platforms like Office 365 such as ‘My Analytics’, make it super simple to manage and monitor how much time you’re spending working and how you’re using that time, plus whether you’re taking regular breaks.
If you’re concerned by your stats and finding it hard to make a positive change with your current workload, speak to your line manager or HR team.
5.Focus on one device at a time
If your desk looks like a display in your local Currys PC World, it might be time to make a change.
Focusing on too many devices at once can overstimulate your brain and lead to burn out and fatigue, hitting your productivity hard and making switching off in the evenings near on impossible.
If you can’t scale back your screen time, review how many devices you’re using at your desk on a normal day. Try to limit yourself to one device at a time and reduce the amount of “second screening”.