We live in what is often referred to as the ‘always on’ culture where we check our smartphones, tablets or laptops with ever increasing frequency. Where social media and irrelevant emails are becoming somewhat intrusive. Where the first thing some 40% of people do on a morning or the last thing they do at night is to check their inbox. And now, some experts are saying that this high tech involvement could actually be increasing rather than decreasing our stress.
According to the Quality of Working Life report, compiled by the Chartered Management Institute, an obsession with checking emails when outside working hours could be partly to blame for a difficulty in switching off. This sense of being constantly involved with our jobs can actually increase work stress without even being at work.
Employers are already looking at these issues and realising that they need to take some degree of control. Daimler have taken the step of ensuring that all messages sent to an employee when they are on holiday are automatically deleted and Volkswagen have installed measures that shut off email accounts when an employee is off-shift.
While tech may be part of the problem, it can also be a way to solve the issues. Microsoft UK’s chief envisioning officer, Dave Coplin, is one to think that artificial intelligence tools will help with issues such as these. For example, the AI could learn to block messages when employees are busy or wait until they are at a quieter point of the day to allow them to check messages, then prioritise what they see. Their personal assistant program, Cortana, is already playing a big part in this.
Work life balance
Looking at the assessments of engaged staff and the vocabulary they use to describe their job, a clear picture can be seen. Companies who look at their staff’s overall health and wellbeing have a resulting higher engagement level, with staff who enjoy their work and are happy. A big part of this is taking back the work life balance from the constant bombardment of emails and information even when we are not at work.
This desire to regulate the work day, increase productivity and ensure work doesn’t go home with them has led to the creation of a number of programs to help staff regulate themselves during the day. These include apps that allow users to block certain programs for set periods of time during the day, meaning they stay focused on what is important and ignore distractions suggests James Murray of mobile IT solutions company Alternative Networks
Wearables is another area that employers are using to help monitor staff and ensure they are as stress-free as possible. One professor attached an iHealth activity and cardiac tracker to every MBA student in a management school program in Paris. Data was gathered every 10 minutes and could be viewed on a dashboard. Added to this were questions about stress levels and happiness to create an overall health picture.
These measures are being combined with others such as healthy eating programs and regular staff health checks. This shows employers are wanting to create staff that are highly focused, highly engaged with their role and the company as well as at their peak health.