How tech impacts corporate culture and personal health

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This article is the second in a series on digital citizenship. For more, read “Fear is not enough, teach kids about digital citizenship.” 

Armed with mobile devices, cloud-based software, data analytics, easy-to-use apps, automated artificial intelligence, and numerous real-time communication tools, today’s workplace is a hub of efficiency and productivity.

But it looks like the same digital technology designed to help us work better and faster is actually distracting us from getting stuff done. When Udemy surveyed more than 1,000 full-time office workers in the U.S. last year, it found:

futurithmic corporate digital citizenship udemy infographic
  • More than one-third of millennial and Gen Z workers spend two hours per day (or 10 hours per workweek) checking their smartphones on the job
  • 58 percent of all surveyed workers said they can’t get through a workday without checking social media
  • 78 percent of millennial and Gen Z employees find personal technology more distracting at work than workplace tech tools
  • On the flip side, 57 percent of baby boomer employees say they’re more distracted by workplace technology than personal tech in the office

The findings led the survey’s researchers to pose quite a heavy question: There’s been a lot of concern around the implications of too much screen time for kids, but what are these technologies doing to adults on the job?

Dr. Eli Shapiro is trying to find out.

Screen time at work

In part one of this series, we explored the Digital Citizenship Project. Founded by Shapiro in 2014, DCP uses lectures, workshops, boot camps, and curriculum content to inform kids, parents, and educators about appropriate, responsible technology use for children.

Now Shapiro, a social worker with a doctorate in education, has set up a corporate practice within DCP to help businesses create digital citizenship guidelines and programs for technology use in the workplace.

“Many business leaders look at this from a productivity point of view. But we also want to look at the health aspect for employees,” says Shapiro.

He pointed to research findings that suggest constantly checking email, hearing phone notifications or merely having their smartphone nearby can increase people’s anxiety, slow their cognitive functioning and hurt their productivity.

Digital distraction definitely hits the bottom line. Numbers crunched way back in 2012 found that six in ten people use social media during work hours, and estimated that social media distraction costs the U.S. economy $650 billion per year.

Retrain your brain

woman leans back in her chair in board room

Corporate IT training? Almost all companies provide that, Shapiro said. Corporate IT policies? Many now have those too, he said. What most employers don’t do, however, is educate staff about the potential impact of all that technology on their job performance, workplace culture and personal health, he concluded.

With those matters in mind, here are some things to ponder about digital citizenship in the corporate sphere.

Keep it simple

Minor adjustments – like checking email just a few set times per day or banning device use during meetings – are often most effective. “We’re not saying to go off the grid. It’s little changes like putting your phone away for 10 minutes sometimes,” Shapiro explained.

Customize

Digital citizenship “might look different for each company and industry,” said DCP’s associate director, Temima Feldman. “We would never tell an emergency room doctor to put their phone away when they’re on-call,” Shapiro added. “It really depends on the situation and where you are.”

In terms of staff demographics, “you have baby boomers, generation X, millennials and Generation Z. They all have different values around technology,” Shapiro noted.

It’s personal

Your personal online activity is, in fact, your boss’s business. In a 2018 CareerBuilder survey of HR pros and hiring managers:

  • 57 percent said they chose not to hire someone after researching their social media content
  • 34 percent of employers said they’ve fired or reprimanded an employee due to their personal online postings

You have baby boomers, generation X, millennials and Generation Z. They all have different values around technology.

“Anything you put on social media in a personal space is a reflection of your job as well,” Shapiro warned. “It can impact the fiscal viability of the company and it also hurts you because that’s part of your digital footprint.”

Use tech tools

Some tech tools can help fight digital distraction. Shapiro cited the Palm smartphone, which features a tiny screen to discourage prolonged web browsing and a Life Mode setting to block notifications. “It keeps people connected but focused on the task at hand,” Shapiro said.

Employee Internet Management (EIM) software can also help manage staff access to specific sites and apps during work hours.

Check the law

While fostering digital citizenship at your company, just make sure your guidelines don’t violate labor codes or data privacy laws in your jurisdiction.

About Fast Future

It is our mission to explore the implications of emerging technologies, seeking answers to next-level questions about how they will affect society, business, politics and the environment of tomorrow.

We aim to inform and inspire through thoughtful research, responsible reporting, and clear, unbiased writing, and to create a platform for a diverse group of innovators to bring multiple perspectives.

Fast Future is building the media that connects the conversation.

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