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Smartphones, 4G and cloud technologies have done wonders for our productivity and freed us from being desk-bound. We can now work from anywhere, at any time. These technologies have also unleashed a trove of information, and given us the capacity to process and analyse huge amounts of data to generate more information.
But these blessings can also be a curse.
Left unchecked, the ability to work from anywhere can, and has, blurred the important line between work and personal time. More and more people are also finding themselves overwhelmed by the deluge of new information coming their way daily.
The result of all of this is that today’s workplaces are increasingly more stressful and demanding. Faced with too little time to rest and recover, and finding themselves overwhelmed, many people have come to rely on the body’s stress response to generate the hormones cortisol and adrenaline for the energy to continue functioning despite being tired. However, this source of energy — which is meant only as a short-term, fight-or-flight response to danger — does eventually peter out and the body will crash if it’s been running on it for too long.
The ability to work from anywhere can, and has, blurred the important line between work and personal time
Another harmful effect of the energy-sapping always-on culture digital technologies have brought on is that workplaces become more hostile when the people who work there are low on energy.
Given the pressures of leading, some bosses might also be tempted by the 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year access they have to people through communication apps such as WhatsApp or social media into demanding more time for work. Employees, for their part, might be tempted into acceding to such demands, creating a precedent that over time becomes hardcoded into the organisation’s culture.
It doesn’t have to be like this because these very same social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) technologies that have freed us only to imprison us again can be made to serve us.
There are three hallmarks of a digitising organisation that portend good health and happiness for its people:
Digital transformation is a strategic consideration
Everyone is talking about digital transformation, but few have really sat down and figured out how it affects their organisational set up, products and services, and employee and customer experience. And even those who might have sat down to figure it out don’t have real strategy to manage and stay on top of the change.
If an organisation’s executives truly understand the inevitable implications of digital transformation, which will leave no business untouched, they will have a strategy for it. And having a strategy means the organisation’s leaders have at least taken the first step.
They have acknowledged that the issue exists and are taking it into consideration in the organisation’s highest decision-making bodies.
Technology as an enabler of wellness
There have been a number of digital tools coming out to help people improve their health.
Take the litany of calorie counters and sleep monitors, and exercise apps that help users set goals, as low-tech examples. Some of these have found their way into business applications; Discovery Health’s Vitality app, which approximates an ‘age’ for users based on self-reported information on diet, exercise and other habits.
But most of these have been customer facing. An organisation that is thoughtful about providing its people the tools to manage the demands and stress of work are thinking about ways to use digital technologies to customise the workplace experience of each employee.
Technology is no replacement for will
Imagine a scenario where an organisation has a digital transformation strategy in place along with digital tools that support employee wellness, yet the organisation’s leaders are committed to neither. The scenario is not too far-fetched a scenario.
An organisation’s top executives have to take ownership of the fact that they bear the ultimate responsibility for helping employees use digital technologies at work effectively without allowing them to take over their lives.
Without such ownership, the strategy and digital wellness tools will prove to be of little use.