Technology vs. wellbeing: what the future holds
A report commissioned by financial protection specialist Unum has revealed what the future workplace could look like, and the inevitable role technology will play.
The Future Workplace report found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of British workers feel they are expected to always be available for work. This feeling of always being on demand increases their stress levels and the likelihood of them leaving their job. We all know that switching off is good for us but it often gets forgotten. That’s why it’s vital that employers lead the way and empower staff to understand the role of technology and how it impacts their wellbeing.
A balancing act
Technology means we work faster. This leads to higher expectations on people, who juggle an increasing number of responsibilities. Employees, overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tasks thrown up by this increased efficiency, will be helped in the future by systems that are advanced yet intuitive. This could be as straightforward as establishing minimalist layouts across email and social media platforms, converting all text to a clearer typography, or enlarging pictures.
More intelligent work systems will use employee data to provide a bespoke offering dependent on individual needs and working habits. Companies could use this data to create a working environment, job description and benefits package that best meets each person’s needs.
Introducing ‘tech-free timeouts’ is something businesses of all sizes can do. This could be as simple as making space in the office for employees to work and meet without technology, or taking the whole team off-site for technology-free away days. Our report showed that zoned-off spaces for relaxing meditation and naps could become mainstream in the future, with staff taking time out for contemplation.
Technology itself plays a role in ensuring workers switch off and will be increasingly used for this function in the future. For example, by stopping emails being sent and received outside working hours or configuring employees’ devices so they cannot spend excessive time on them.
Prevention is better than cure
Managing stress levels and protecting mental health starts with prevention. We provide stress awareness workshops and an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which help with a range of issues that may be negatively affecting performance, health and wellbeing. This fundamental assistance is often included with products like group income protection, to give employees and their line managers support as soon as problems arise.
Employers need to start taking action to adapt effectively to this evolution of the workplace. By taking advantage of these opportunities HR professionals can increase communication and creativity in the workplace and improve performance across the company as a whole. Investing in the future workplace will be beneficial for employers and employees alike, helping to attract and retain talent and improve productivity, thereby giving companies the best chance of success.
Peter O’Donnell is CEO of Unum UK