With the pandemic promoting increased restrictions on social distancing, physical offices are becoming a thing of the past, with remote work being embraced across the globe. For this reason, our reliance on technology and online communication is greater than ever.
Part of this reliance includes the lion’s share of corporate communication taking place via video calls. And while we are grateful for the ability to stay in touch and keep business churning, this switch has proven a struggle for many.
The term for this experience has been dubbed “Zoom fatigue,” and it is a genuine and debilitating thing that can affect not only your efficiency and productivity at work, but can also negatively affect your entire health and well-being as an individual. This fatigue extends beyond the corporate realm as well, reaching into social circles that are starving for the real social interaction of the not-so-distant past.
As more people are reporting being burned out and utterly exhausted from a work-from-home routine filled with constant video conferencing, parents are tiring of hours of tedious online homeschooling, and friends and families are forced to rely on online sources for their only ways to connect. It is alarmingly clear what first appeared to emerge as lifelines to sustain the world’s connectivity amid the current coronavirus crisis, is now revealing itself as a double-edged sword.
With this extreme reliance on tech, it has created a society (and corporate culture) that is more isolated, more segmented, and generally unhappier than ever before. More than 30 years ago, Georgia Tech professor Melvin Kranzberg compiled a list of what he called the “Six Laws of Technology”:
1. Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.
2. Invention is the mother of necessity
3. Technology comes in packages, big and small.
4. Although technology might be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.
5. All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.
6. Technology is a very human activity—and so is the history of technology
The list is eerily relevant today, as it addressed the potential pitfalls related to the growing reach of technologies.
Among these pitfalls is our current crisis, the ever-pervasive presence of technology, social media, and an “always-on” mentality regarding connectivity. It has been proven that this over-saturation is terrible for our health. One study revealed that since the advent of the smartphone, the rates of depression and suicide have skyrocketed among teenagers.
Bluntly put: Technology is killing us. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for the tech industry to step up. How?
If there ever was a time for the tech industry to step up and create some healthy parameters for the use of their products, it is this very moment. Taking such measures would allow the industry to both keep a closer eye on its own practices, as well as encourage the creation of apps that are aimed to reinforce positive behavioral patterns and overall wellness in users. It is important to note that these guidelines would need to be voluntary and used solely to prevent abusive technologies.
The proven mental health benefits to completely disconnecting (literally stepping away from the computer and our phones)from time to time are undeniable. The tech industry has the opportunity here to be proactive in offering full support to this necessary practice. By encouraging users to take “digital sabbaticals” regularly, the rewards will not only benefit the users themselves. They will also help the tech industry with a resulting much more engaged—and intact—user pool when they return to their screens.
Make Resources Readily Available
The industry can’t stand silent as this issue spirals out of control. Tech companies must not only acknowledge the problem, but they must also offer users tools to help protect them as they use their products. As you are choosing which resources to provide, asking these core questions can be a great guide: How can we help users protect themselves against the negative effects of technology? How do we aid them in putting up barriers against it?
The good news: there are already tech companies out there who are working to help solve this problem. Will yours be one of them?