Interview: Why digital wellbeing should be top of the C-Suite agenda
Wed 30 Sep 2020 | James Orme
We know the dangers posed by unfettered digital consumption and how it not only affects employee health and wellbeing, but business productivity and talent acquisition/retention. With the cloud, companies now have the tools to do something about it
Thanks to rising awareness of the mental health issues associated with our digital lives, society is increasingly wary of the excesses of digital consumption. For many years now, consumers have turned to smartphone monitoring apps that keep phone usage in check. Parents too are increasingly aware of the dangers that uninterrupted screentime pose to children. The business world however, has been comparatively slow at applying our developing understanding of digital wellbeing to the workplace.
Science tells us that digital activities in any context have positive and negative effects which need to be identified, understood and managed. Smartphones provide a distraction from full immersion in complex jobs and too much screen time diminishes focus, concentration and comprehension. Technology’s accessibility has also exacerbated multi-tasking — fine in small doses but an impediment to productivity if not restricted.
“Not only is it a moral duty of employers to care for their employees’ wellbeing, it is also a necessity to guarantee business continuity,” says Sebastian Prat, CEO & Founder of Flexxible IT, a company which is turning to cloud computing to help businesses create digital environments that are conducive to employee wellbeing and, thus, productivity.
There have been increasing calls for digital policies that safeguard wellbeing in the workplace (a 2018 Economist survey of HR executives showed 70 percent agreed more needed to be done). For Prat, the time has come to turn to technology itself to transform concern and debate into actual action on the office floor.
Flexxible’s Apps2Digital cloud platform applies the latest scientific insights on digital wellbeing to form a “wellness dashboard” that helps employees guide and manage potentially insidious and counterproductive habits. The dashboard displays statistics across devices (mobile/desktop), applications (in-house and external and categorised by types such as productivity, collaboration and social platforms) and users.
Taken together, user interaction is restyled into a range of “wellness indexes” across the organisation, from teams to individuals. As the platform respects individual preferences, you won’t set the alarm bells ringing just because you check your emails first thing in the morning, “No employee will be exactly the same and Apps2Digital leaves plenty of space for these differences without judgment,” says Prat.
Employees can then source advice and tools recommended by health professionals to help them maximise their personal sense of digital wellbeing. “We do not only point out what business applications are being used and when or how and by who, we also help you to educate your workforce to do so in the most effective and healthy way.”
The platform is not just a wellbeing tracker on the cloud, but can be used to deploy cloud applications to an entire workforce with the touch of a button. The main idea here being if cloud applications are simpler to consume, life at the desk is more productive and less stressful:
“There is nothing more frustrating for users when their apps do not work or are slow and unreliable,” explains Prat. “This leads to longer work hours to “get the job done” and reduces the Digital Wellness considerably.” : The platform allows for automatic and repeatable packaging of applications so IT can easily make sure users always have the apps they need. If certain apps are proving a bottleneck with high resource usage then the platform can assist in recommending effective alternatives.
The world’s transition to a remote-based form of work has reignited discussions over work-life balance and the impact of technology on employee mental, physical and emotional health. For many, the time recaptured from the commute has rebalanced the scales, but for others (especially those with colleagues placed on furlough), an increase in stress and working hours encapsulates their “new normal”.
Prat says it’s incumbent on employers to know in which camp employees lie, pointing to several pandemic studies that document a substantial rise in monthly overtime since remote working took hold alongside a rising sense of job insecurity. He says curbing the negative health impacts of remote working is a shared responsibility between all stakeholders: Employees, HR, Management, and IT. Apps2Digital is architected accordingly:
“An individual employee can see their “wellness index” and statistics on how they are managing their own wellness, HR can maintain compliance according to the country, or vertical, Management can make sure they are giving the best employee experience to retain staff, and IT can make sure the right services are delivered in a timely and stable way to improve the user experience.”
Ultimately the message is simple. We know the dangers posed by unfettered digital consumption and how it not only affects employee health and wellbeing, but business productivity and talent acquisition/ retention. With the cloud, companies now have the tools to do something about it, and create better, more productive conditions for all. If you don’t step up your commitment to digital wellbeing, you can bet your competitors will. It’s time companies revisit employee benefits and place digital wellbeing at the front of the line. I know who I’d rather work for.
Written by James Orme Wed 30 Sep 2020