Time for a cognitive reset?

I decided to take a technology break from writing my blog and have not written a blog since June 12, 2016.

It was a solo experiment of further practicing and being authentically present to my own work life balance.

Have we become generations who are distracted easily? We are wasting hours a day checking information of fun facts from our media accounts and afraid we might miss something.

In the consulting and coaching work I am doing, I have noticed one HUGE element – we have become a culture who is “always on”. It’s making us more stressed and truly less productive and the bottom line is short term disability claims are only increasing. People are getting sick.

“Something like 40% of people wake up in the morning and the first thing they do is check their email,” says Professor Sir Cary Cooper of Manchester Business School, who has studied e-mail and workplace stress.  “For another 40%, it’s the last thing they do at night.”

The Quality of Working Life 2016 report from the Chartered Management Institute earlier this year found that this obsession with checking emails outside -of work hours is making it difficult for many of us to switch off.  This is increasing our stress levels.  So what can we do about it?

It’s time to be and work smarter

Companies are stepping up to the plate.  Volkswagen has begun shutting off their employees’ email when they are finished their shift.

Daimier has taken work life balance one step further and when an employee is off on holidays their emails are automatically erased to not interrupt their “off time”.

Dave Coplin, Microsoft UK’s chief envisioning officer, believes artificial intelligence tools will learn when we are busy and block alerts, waiting until we’re less busy before bringing us the relevant or interesting messages.

Self help

Perhaps a cognitive reset is required. A self-intervention of computer behavior. This would be the first step in seizing control of your work life balance.

Wearable technology offers another way to help us manage our stress at work, according to some people.

Since January, Professor Michael Segalla has offered an iHealth activity and cardiac tracker to every MBA student at the HEC Paris management school.

The gadgets gather data every 10 minutes from each student – heart rate, blood oxygen levels, sleeping patterns – which can then be viewed on a dashboard.

Along with the bio-metric data, students are being asked online how stressed and happy they feel. The idea is to see how perceived well being and bio-tracking data affect academic performance.

“It is a sad fact that firms are probably spending more money on monitoring the physical state of machines than they are on monitoring the physical health and well being of employees,” says Prof Segalla.

He admits that making this type of physical information available to instructors and supervisors is an invasion of privacy. But he says in the era of Google, Bing and social networks, “privacy is virtually gone” anyway.

In a similar vein, Irish start-up Galvanic has come up with Pip, a small, white device that measures skin perspiration – an indicator of stress according to many researchers.

The idea is that by learning to relax, you’ll be able to do so more quickly in future.

Biofeedback devices like these give people “a window into their physical response to stress, helping them learn to control it,” says Ian Robertson, professor of psychology at Trinity College Dublin and chair of Pip’s scientific advisory board.

All in the mind

In the US, “mindfulness” is all the rage as a way of coping with our stressful digital world.

Google, Target, and the Marine Corps have all recently introduced meditation sessions in the workplace. Insurer Aetna found that just an hour a week of such activity reduced employees’ stress levels by a third – and their healthcare costs by $2,000 (£1,400) a year.

And the technology causing us all this “always on” grief – the smartphone – can be used effectively to deliver such courses, says Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of Calm.com, a meditation course provider.

“The irony wasn’t lost on us,” he says.

The man behind the Moshi Monsters kids’ game says his seven-day mindfulness course, created with San Francisco-based practitioner, Tamara Levitt, now has five million users.

He hopes we’ll use our smartphones in queues or on public transport to practice breathing and concentration techniques, rather than checking emails and social media.

Perhaps we just have to learn to switch the damned things off.

Information Source:  BBC Business News

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