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Digital Wellbeing Starts with You

Digital Wellbeing Starts with You

George Grant, Housing Technology's publisher and CEO, discusses the role of technology and how it affects our performance and wellbeing.

Digital technologies have permeated our everyday tasks and interactions have radically altered the way we run our lives, work, learn and socialise. This reliance on the use of technology has led to considerations of the potential consequences on our environment, society and wellbeing – how we behave, communicate and interact in both physical and virtual worlds.

Imagine a world of work where we feel inspired and energised, with a clear sense of purpose to reach your full potential. Even pre-coronavirus, there was a sense that putting people first was a better way of achieving productivity. However, the pandemic has changed the way we live, work and connect. Getting the balance of work and home life is more important than ever, and our reliance on technology plays an ever-more crucial role.

BT’s Dr Nicola Millard, talking at Housing Technology’s Resilient Innovation event, said that for many people our home is our office. This means that our devices are always on, and the compulsion is often to work longer and longer hours. The issue is that the workday has encroached on our lives with technology enabling people to start earlier and end later. These extended hours drain us of energy, and we become more stressed, affecting our ability to be truly productive, healthy and think clearly.

A better way

Given that technology now underpins almost everything we do, how can we harness it to ensure that people don’t burn out and get stressed at work? How can we help our teams to flourish, even under present conditions? To understand our relationship with technology, it’s a useful exercise to take a look at our interactions with media, technology and all digital communications. Without realising it, we may have formed unhealthy habits which impact negatively on our physical and mental health and relationships.

Five tips to help

  • Awareness – Take time to reflect on how you’re using technology at work. Take regular breaks to avoid stress in the shoulders and neck.

  • Set boundaries – Make sure you keep times when you are ‘at work’ and when ‘work’s done’. This will help with the blurring of work/home life. Adopt the practice of using calendar apps to make your diary public so you can block off rest time.

  • Stay focused – Multi-tasking is a terrible idea. Prepare for your meetings and ensure you know the purpose. Choose to be present in the discussion and switch off notifications, so you’re not tempted to read your texts or emails at the same time.

  • Communicate – Ensure your team follows a healthy way of communicating. Without the ability to meet face-to-face, it’s easy to suffer Zoom fatigue (i.e. cognitive overload) – schedule breaks between meetings to make notes and reflect on the previous session before embarking on the next.

  • Balance – Make a conscious effort to switch off and avoid the negative distractions technology can provide. Too much information and screen time can lead to less productivity and even burnout.

Housing providers lead the way

One organisation which puts its people at the heart of its organisation is Melin Homes. Based in South Wales, Melin Homes was ranked sixth in The Sunday Times ‘100 best not-for-profit organisations to work for’ in 2020, having launched its ‘Zest’ wellbeing programme in 2011.

Likewise, Home Group was recently listed in the ‘Top 10 great places to work 2020’ survey for the second year running. This is an excellent indication of its commitment to staff as it was ranked way above a long list of blue-chip multinationals.

Housing Technology Wellbeing

We launched Housing Technology Wellbeing earlier this year to allow our community to share and learn how other organisations are approaching the creation of healthier work cultures. A recent report found that job quality has deteriorated over the last two years, and the pandemic has had an even worse impact on people’s mental and physical health. It’s clear that employers need to identify the leading causes of stress and improve their methods of supporting their staff.

That’s why we’re now planning to explore what housing professionals need in terms of wellbeing and support by undertaking dedicated research. We will be working with a select number of progressive housing providers to improve staff wellbeing at all levels across the UK housing sector.

About our research

We aim to explore how we can develop this channel as a useful tool for the sector. The information we gather needs to be drawn from industry professionals to ensure that we build a valuable and information-rich report. Qualitative analysis will be conducted on the findings of this research which we will use to create an insightful report. This report will include a manifesto for change and will be shared with the Housing Technology community.

We are interested in hearing from anyone who would like to learn more and to be a part in our research.

Healthy working practices

A workplace stress survey of 2020 found that a worrying 79 per cent of employed adults in the UK commonly experience work-related stress, 20 per cent higher than the same 2018 study. What is equally concerning is that only one per cent of working people say they never experience workplace stress. The study found that ‘long working hours’ was the most common cause of work-related stress.

Some ways to avoid overloading your team:

  • Keep checking in to ask about workloads and ensure employees are not under too much pressure, both at work and at home.

  • Make sure you have managers who are well trained to have sensitive discussions about wellbeing and to work on ensuring regular communication in a world where most staff are working remotely.

  • Offer good health and wellbeing benefits at all levels, and make your communications individualised.

  • Give your team more autonomy or control over how, when and where they work to help them manage work pressures.

Psychological safety

Business leaders everywhere should lead by example and set more time aside to spend with their families and trust their staff to get the job done.

What we should be looking at now are outcomes that are delivered, rather than spending long hours at a desk. Google’s head of industry, Paul Santagata, said, “There’s no team without trust.” Google conducted a sizeable two-year study on team performance which found that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common – psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.

In other words, put your team’s wellbeing at the heart of all your activities and ensure that they are thriving, not being drowned by too much technology.

George Grant is the publisher and CEO of Housing Technology.

If you have any thoughts, experiences, news or advice on workplace wellbeing that you would like to share, please see our submission page for more information.