Our Vision on Digital Wellbeing

What is Digital Wellbeing?

Digital wellbeing refers to the subjective experience of an individual achieving an optimal balance between the benefits and drawbacks of mobile connectivity. This state encompasses both affective and cognitive evaluations of how digital connectivity integrates into daily life. Individuals attain digital well-being when they experience maximum controlled pleasure and functional support, while minimizing loss of control and functional impairment.

While there are numerous definitions available, a general consensus is that digital well-being pertains to the degree to which our digital interactions enhance or detract from our overall well-being.

Individuals who are digitally healthy possess the capability to manage online stress, engage in beneficial digital behaviors, and utilize information technologies in ways that allow them to flourish.

Why is it so important?

Over the years, information technology has become increasingly central to our work and daily lives. This shift has yielded numerous benefits. For many, work has become more engaging and varied. Organizations have experienced significant productivity gains due to the rise of information technology, leading to increased prosperity for society. However, there are also downsides. Without proper balance, individuals risk becoming overworked or even experiencing burnout. Some researchers have even associated excessive exposure to information technology with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. We must recognize that our brains operate differently from our digital devices, and the impact of information technology on our mental well-being is becoming increasingly apparent.

Furthermore, the influence of information technology extends beyond our mental state, affecting us physically and socially. Many office workers spend their days seated behind computers, potentially leading to reduced physical activity and associated health concerns. Excessive smartphone screen time can contribute to eye strain or neck problems. Our research indicates that individuals who use their phones right up to bedtime have a higher likelihood of suffering from insomnia, a conclusion echoed by other scientific studies.

The pervasive presence of information technology in our lives also carries significant social implications, with both positive and negative outcomes.

Excessive use of information technology can lead individuals to neglect their social surroundings, resulting in isolation. Conversely, those lacking digital skills might also become isolated, as they become less accessible and struggle to connect with others.

While over-reliance on information technology can be detrimental, it’s essential to note that technology itself isn’t inherently harmful. In fact, when used appropriately, it has the potential to greatly enhance our well-being. It’s crucial that we harness technology to serve us, rather than becoming overly dependent on it. Technology can monitor our sleep, motivate us to exercise, and automate repetitive tasks. Ultimately, the issue isn’t with technology itself, but rather with its design or our usage patterns.

In summary, our interaction with digital devices can enhance our productivity, happiness, and health. However, if we fail to recognize and respect the capabilities and limitations of our brains, the outcomes can be counterproductive. This sentiment was echoed in a meta-analysis we conducted alongside Ruut Veenhoven, a renowned happiness researcher at Erasmus University. The key lies in striking a balance. While overexposure to information technology can lead to stress and mental challenges, underexposure can result in isolation and reduced functionality. Properly harnessed, information technology has the power to either elevate or diminish our happiness.

What does this mean for organizations?

Considering the importance of digital well-being on our overall well-being, we believe it is vital for organizations to understand the interaction between technology and the human brain and to assist their employees in navigating it appropriately.

To achieve a state of digital well-being, it is necessary to understand what individuals can do to enhance their own digital well-being, as well as the role employers can play in facilitating this. That is why we have initiated a research program to better comprehend the fundamental components of digital well-being and to explore avenues for its improvement. Through our research, we have identified four elements that are crucial determinants of employees’ digital well-being.

Four indicators of digital wellbeing

Leveraging the insights gathered, we have outlined four central indiactors of digital well-being:

First is the digital workplace, which encompasses aspects such as the hardware, software, and network facilities available to employees; the efficiency of desktop or laptop environments; and remote access capabilities. Our research indicates that digital means influence both happiness and productivity. This suggests that employees who feel comfortable and confident using digital tools and technologies are not only more likely to enjoy their work but also to be more productive.

If the digital resources are not up-to-date, experience glitches, or are outdated, they can lead to frustration, stress, and fatigue. Thus, having access to reliable and efficient digital tools and technologies is vital for digital well-being. However, it’s not the only factor.

The third indicator of digital well-being is digital support. This encompasses the availability of central and local helpdesks, the nature of the relationship with the IT department, services offered by private helpdesks (such as assistance from home internet providers), and the willingness of colleagues and one’s private network to provide help. This support includes both formal and informal avenues that individuals can turn to when facing challenges in the digital realm. When people feel this kind of support, they feel more anchored and connected.

Access to digital support channels, whether it’s helpdesks, customer service, online forums, or informed colleagues, can greatly alleviate frustration and stress. Such support can bolster an individual’s confidence and diminish anxiety associated with using digital tools or software. Furthermore, connecting with others who can provide guidance and assistance not only offers a safety net but also fosters social interaction, positively influencing mental well-being.

The second indicator is digital skills. This includes one’s self-assessment of digital proficiency, the motivation to improve digital skills, and the available opportunities for training and skill enhancement. It’s not just about having the right resources; individuals also need the right skills to work both happily and productively. When people possess the knowledge to effectively utilize digital devices and software, they can not only boost productivity but also enhance communication and foster creativity. Our research supports this, showing a direct positive correlation between digital skills, productivity, and creativity.

Furthermore, our research suggests that possessing a higher level of digital skills is associated with increased happiness and enthusiasm, both in the workplace and in everyday life. However, this proficiency can also make individuals prone to overusing digital resources, which might result in unhealthy digital habits.

Those with advanced digital skills often assist colleagues and their personal networks. This assistance is invaluable and, at times, even exceeds the support offered by official helpdesks. Yet, this dynamic can present a challenge: skilled employees might become overwhelmed, leading to stress if their efforts aren’t appropriately managed and acknowledged by their organization.

The fourth indicator is digital behavior. This emphasizes the healthful use of technology, which includes responsible use of work-related devices, balanced device usage in personal settings, moderation in digital consumption to prevent overuse, and fostering positive social behavior both online and offline. Our research, supported by other studies, highlights that unhealthy digital behaviors—such as excessive smartphone use and frequent participation in online meetings—can lead to heightened stress and mental health challenges. These behaviors often reduce concentration and productivity, while increasing feelings of fatigue and irritability.

Thus, it’s essential to cultivate healthy digital habits, promoting a mindful and balanced approach to technology. This not only boosts work performance and overall happiness but also protects mental well-being. Implementing strategies like setting clear boundaries and championing digital wellness initiatives can be instrumental in achieving a balanced work-life dynamic.

Digital Wellbeing leads to …

As we navigate the intricate landscape of digital well-being, it becomes increasingly clear that the potential benefits are both substantial and multifaceted. By focusing on the four indicators of digital well-being, organizations can foster environments that significantly enhance the overall well-being of their end users and at the same time provide significant benefits for organizations. Let us delve deeper into the positive outcomes that stand to be gained:

Happiness

A concerted effort towards nurturing digital well-being can usher in a wave of happiness among end users. This is manifested not just in a general sense of happiness but extends to fostering a greater level of enthusiasm in their daily engagements. Moreover, it paves the way for enriched social interactions, fostering a community spirit and a harmonious atmosphere. The ripple effect of this is seen in an improved atmosphere, both at the workplace and in personal spaces, nurturing environments that are conducive to growth and happiness.

Health

The health benefits are equally significant, with a notable improvement in general health being a direct outcome of enhanced digital well-being. It aids in the reduction of various forms of stress, be it work-related, personal, or technostress, thereby promoting a healthier mental state. Furthermore, it facilitates a reduced workload, helping individuals manage their tasks more efficiently without feeling overwhelmed. This naturally leads to individuals feeling less tired, paving the way for a healthier work-life balance.

Productivity

On the productivity front, the gains are substantial. By fostering digital well-being, individuals find themselves gaining time, a resource most precious in today’s fast-paced world. It nurtures a space where individuals are not only more productive but also find the creative latitude to innovate and think out of the box. The end result is a workforce that is more attuned to the demands of the digital age, capable of leveraging digital resources to their optimum potential, and driving forward with creativity and innovation. This is not only beneficial for the company; our research shows that employees who are productive also achieve a higher level of well-being.

Flexibility

In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, flexibility is key for individuals as well as organizations. It encompasses the readiness and ability to adapt to new technologies swiftly, a trait that is indispensable in maintaining a competitive edge in today’s market. When employees attain a high level of digital well-being, they naturally cultivate a mindset geared towards continuous learning and adaptability, which eases the transition amidst the ever-evolving waves of digital transformation. This, in turn, enhances the overall flexibility of an organization. By prioritizing and nurturing digital well-being, organizations empower their teams to be agile and resilient, fully equipped to harness the potential of emerging technologies to the fullest.

Thriving Workforce

Organizations that prioritize digital well-being position themselves as attractive employers, drawing in talent that is aligned with a forward-thinking and digitally conscious ethos. Moreover, a focus on digital well-being aids in retaining talent, creating a work environment where individuals feel supported and valued. By fostering a culture that values digital well-being, organizations not only hold on to their talent but nurture a workforce that is engaged, satisfied, and productive, thereby creating a sustainable and thriving workforce.

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