Screen it out: How to stop distractive devices from sapping your productivity

Pieter Kruger
The rise of work phones has eroded the boundaries between our personal and professional lives (Source: Getty)

We live and work in a technologically-driven world, and tech does not come without its challenges. We now receive and process more than double the amount of information per day as we did 20 years ago, and this explosion has profoundly affected our wellbeing.

Read more: Employees lose a staggering amount of time to stress - here's how much

So where does tech have the most damaging impact? And, with technology now so inextricable from our working lives, how can its negative effects be countered?

Communication is key

In the modern workplace environment, the majority of us are required to sit in front of a computer to carry out our day-to-day responsibilities. Employees can become mentally tethered to their desks, unable to interact fully and naturally with their colleagues.

Rather than face-to-face conversations, emails are now standard for communication and this can leave people feeling incredibly isolated. It also creates issues around miscommunication, with body language and tone of voice not conveyed, leading to potentially damaging miscommunication among employees.

Switching off

Constant overtime, a culture of desk lunches and an always-on mentality is neither beneficial for your wellbeing or performance.

Read more: Easy techniques for mindfulness

Some 69 per cent of UK workers say that they are regularly required to work outside their official office hours, and the rise of work phones has eroded the boundaries between our personal and professional lives. Many of us are guilty of logging on and responding to work emails at night, but doing this can significantly affect sleep cycles and recovery. In turn, this has a knock on effect on our productivity levels and our attitude towards colleagues the next day.

Tech has made it easier for us to keep track of what our peers are doing, and the rise of social media sites such as LinkedIn has allowed us to constantly benchmark against others. While creating feelings of dissatisfaction and resentment, it stops us from getting on with the task at hand.

Tips for tackling tech

Here’s what you can do to help ensure tech doesn’t stress you out, or slow your business down.

  • Aim to control the time you look at the internet. And when you are finished, shut down the browser so it does not become an unwanted distraction. Apps which restrict internet use, such as Freedom and Cold Turkey, both allow users to decide whether they want to be blocked from the internet entirely for a defined period, or select certain websites they know will tempt them.

  • Schedule time during the day to check emails, so that you are not constantly checking your inbox. A study by McKinsey Global Institute found that office workers spend an average of 2.6 hours reading and answering emails every day, or 27 days a year. It might be a good idea to arrange these times to coincide with periods of low productivity – after lunch, for example.

  • When it comes to time management, think what you can realistically get done in a day, and then set out a plan for achieving it.

  • Managers should also consider introducing flexible working policies to help their employees adopt a better work-life balance, and improve their wellbeing and productivity levels. Crucially, they should lead by example. It’s easy to tell your employees to switch off their phones. But if you aren’t practising what you preach, you risk condescending to them, and you’ll fail to enact any lasting cultural change.