Technology in the modern workplace has given us more flexibility in how we work than ever before. With that, our mental well-being has definitely improved. We know that the human brain can only tolerate so much stimulation before reaching overload. To combat this, we change our environment to avoid burning out, giving ourselves a fresh atmosphere in which to thrive. This helps us stay in the “flow,” that state of mind where employees not only do their best work, but enjoy it the most. Technology has untethered us from the static workstation.
However, there’s a dark side to that bright screen when it comes to employee well-being.
Modern Workplace Pitfall: Always Available Means Never a Break
Technology is designed to keep us focused on it. When it comes to the modern workplace, there are two seemingly finite resources: time and attention. Employees experience a blurred line between work and life due to their constant connection to the office through email, smartphones, or remote access. Sure, the employee may get more done in a given day because they spend their evenings answering late-day emails. Employees are more likely to resent the expectation that they have no time off to relax, recharge their batteries, and reconnect with their families.
Deloitte research recently suggested there’s a law of diminishing returns for the always-on employee in todays modern workplace. That employee’s value is eroded by increased cognitive load and reduced employee performance and mental happiness. There is a noticeable tipping point before the employee begins to feel frazzled, overworked, and stretched too thin to perform their job effectively.
We may be free of our desks, but we’re not free of the work, and by extension, of the burden that comes with it. This applies to the freshly-employed recent grads all the way up the ladder to the CEO. No one is immune from information overload, especially in a modern workplace filled with technology.
The working class used to consist of those who worked from morning to night. The upper class were those who had leisure time because they could afford it. Now, cultural norms have turned those employees who are always on, always working, always accessible into the important people. They are the ones without whom the business will fail. It’s a sign of higher social status, and it’s mentally unhealthy for all of us.
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