Digital technology has transformed the way we stay connected in both our personal and professional lives. Although connectedness can help to foster community and strengthen relationships, it can also leave us burned out from non-stop communications, particularly at work. Here are three key reasons why workplace communications might be affecting employee wellbeing.
Pressure to Work All Hours
Time off work is an opportunity to rest up, reset, socialize and enjoy hobbies, all of which are essential for stress relief and overall happiness. Unfortunately, many of us carry our smartphones with us all the time, and this can create a culture of employees being reachable at any time of day or night. Plus, since our inboxes are always a couple of taps away on our phone, it's always tempting to check in and see the emails stacking up which brings our minds back to work when we should be resting. As a result of these nonstop communications, half of employees feel that they never fully switch off from their work, and this has a significant negative impact on their wellbeing.
Inability to Focus and Poor Productivity
Whether it's on our phones, laptops or tablets, we're constantly being pinged with notifications for emails, calendar reminders, instant messages and project updates. Notifications often have distracting audio alerts and on computers they pop up in the corner of our screens. It can take up to 23 minutes to recover from a distraction at work, so these relentless interruptions make it difficult to focus on the task in hand, no matter whether we break off to attend to them or not. When we struggle to focus, we either don't complete tasks to our best ability or we take much longer to complete them than we would without any distractions. Poor productivity leads to tasks stacking up unfinished which makes us feel stressed and overwhelmed.
With limited true time off, endless distracting notifications and tasks going undone, it's inevitable that employees feel overwhelmed. Relentless workplace communications also contribute to mental overload because they give us a sense that all our duties must be completed at once. It can be hard to prioritize your workload when colleagues are constantly vying for their tasks to be completed first. When we feel overwhelmed and stressed for a long period of time at work, we're at risk of developing burnout. Although not classified as a medical condition, burnout is recognized by the World Health Organization as an occupational phenomenon in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). It causes feelings of exhaustion, cynicism related to our jobs and reduced efficacy at work.
Workplace communications might be designed to help organizations stay connected and function more efficiently, but excessive communications can have the opposite effect. By putting healthy boundaries on workplace communications, employees can enjoy genuine rest from work, maintain their focus and rate of productivity and minimize their risk of stress and burnout.