How to avoid digital burnout in the workplace

During Mental Health Awareness week, one of our newest clients, Just Ask Max, the first digital well-being platform, offers advice on how employees can avoid digital burnout.

Reduce digital distractions

We’re bombarded with so many notifications across all our devices that it’s almost impossible to stay focused.  On average, we check our emails every 37 minutes and 40% of us never get 30 minutes of focused work time. To combat this:

  • Use the in-built email filtering to sort emails and create folders where emails are sent automatically. Messages that you’re copied in on can be automatically marked as read and sent to a “review later” folder.
  • Focus on quality emails and try to reduce the total number of emails you receive. Every spam email you get, unsubscribe or block the sender.
  • Check emails first thing, then 9:30 – 11am each day, block your calendar out (so colleagues are aware), turn devices OFF when you need to tackle time-critical activities (not just on silent) and close your email.

Reduce fatigue by limiting screentime

Software and apps are designed to be highly addictive and trigger “happy hormones”. When done in a healthy way we become more alert, have more energy and motivation and feel more fulfilled. However, when we’re overstimulated, we become fatigued. Typical symptoms include headaches feeling overwhelmed, self-doubt, and detachment. To address this:

  • One of the most fatiguing moments of remote working is seeing your image reflect back at you so disable the self-view.
  • Urge your company/team leader to produce a digital behaviour charter that sets out the rule of engagement and defines what’s expected from the team in terms of how they communicate – whether it’s through email/web chat, when/if it’s acceptable to communicate out-of-hours.
  • As we return to the office, look at the notion of “Room or Zoom”. Collaboration, innovation and creativity could be affected if there’s a mix of people in the room and dialling in through video conferencing. If there’s a split, everyone should dial onto a call.
  • Avoid calls in the afternoon – we do this at Just Ask Max! You could even go as far as no virtual meetings on a Friday for example so employees get time for a much-needed break from tech.

Must-haves for remote working

It’s healthy for the mind to delineate clearly between your workspace, your relaxation and personal space at home:

  • A proper working environment is vital so consider investing in an ergonomic chair and standing desk to get into the right position.
  • Research (CNBC, 2020) shows having a plant and scented candle nearby can lift your mood.
  • Keep your laptop in your working space only! Come the weekend – try not to live too much in your workspace to ensure you feel refreshed when you come back Monday morning!
  • The use of voice notes is becoming increasingly popular. Rather than long emails, they’re a quick and personal way to reply. They help you to take back control of those emails that aren’t that productive.

Improve productivity

Many of us burn-out because we’re working too much. Take this opportunity to take a step back to look at quality:

  • Back-to-back meetings are stressful, but workers can easily remedy this by taking short breaks. Make sure you take some time out every 90 minutes – go for a walk outside,  listen to music, exercise or meditate.
  • Avoid back to back calls and challenge yourself to 15-minute meetings to focus discussions.
  • Use a Pomodoro timer to ensure you’re having the right types of breaks to help you maintain productivity, avoid becoming overwhelmed with digital distractions and help you to stay focused.
  • Aim for periods of deep work – block out the calendar to make it publicly noticeably that you’re getting work done.

Check your mood

Anyone or anything that pushes content, whether through email or any other media that makes you feel negative or overwhelmed, should either be gradually reduced or managed:

  • Try to focus on positive emotional experiences.
  • Reflect on what emotions you feel when you read emails from certain people. Is it stress, joy, exasperation, impatience? Once we identify how we feel, we can take steps to improve those interactions.

Try a digital detox

The Forest App encourages you to not check your phone – it’ll grow a tree on your screen during the period you don’t check your phone and once you’ve grown that tree, Forest will plant one in real life – it’s a fantastic way to focus and helps the planet at the same time!

Almost all those who try a digital detox report multiple health benefits, including:

  • Being more focused
  • Having better concentration
  • An increased ability to manage digital distractions
  • A greater ability to be ‘present’ with people

Try it for a weekend and let us know how it made you feel afterwards!


Sarah Glass

Account Director

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