HR Policies & Procedures, Strategic HR

How to Influence Digital Wellbeing for Employees

Employers have been implementing employee wellness programs for decades. But one aspect of wellness that may be overlooked is what’s being called “digital wellbeing.”

Source: Julia_Sudnitskaya / iStock / Getty

Digital wellbeing actually can refer to two different aspects of wellbeing:

  1. The ability to disconnect from screens and devices to truly relax, and
  2. The use of digital technologies to enhance other wellbeing efforts.

At first, these two things may seem contradictory or at odds, but they don’t have to be. Both can be used to improve overall wellbeing.

Digital Wellbeing and the Ability to Disconnect

Everyone should have the chance to disconnect—from work and from technology. Here are some ways to allow employees time away from technology and devices (this addresses the first type of digital wellbeing):

  • Encourage employees to use their vacation time and don’t encourage employees to work while on vacation. If they’re taking a likely much-needed break from work, employers should be wary of disrupting that by expecting employees to check in or respond to messages while away. Doing so disrupts the break and reduces the benefit of the vacation.
  • Help employees create redundancies so that their work can be covered while they’re away from it. This can take many forms, but usually requires a proactive approach from the organization. Encourage employees to ensure that others are kept up-to-date on their work so that someone else can step in when needed with minimal disruption. Doing this will allow employees to feel less obligated to get immediately back to work when they really need to be doing something else, like vacationing or recovering from illness or injury.
  • Consider allowing or encouraging employees to install apps that track digital usage. There are apps across multiple platforms that can tell an individual how much time is spent on each application or with active screen time. Simply being aware of the time spent—especially during non-work hours—can be a first step to working toward healthy habits. That said, if employees do use these apps, allow the employee to self-monitor—the key is not to become “big brother,” but rather to allow employees to have tools to manage their own usage.
  • Consider implementing ways to discourage working after hours when possible. Some organization even reduce or eliminate after-hours emails by stopping the server from delivering them, for example. (This is just one example; the key is that employers have options to reduce the feeling of needing to work 24/7.)

Using Technology to Improve Overall Wellbeing

While we have already noted that time away from screens and tech can be good for our health, there’s also the fact that technology can be used to help implement other wellbeing initiatives. Here are some ways to incorporate technology into overall wellbeing initiatives:

  • Incorporate the use of fitness apps or other tracking apps into employee wellness programs to allow them to easily track progress on any programs they’re on.
  • Consider providing fitness apps, wearable devices, or other fitness trackers to employees as a wellness benefit.
  • Consider offering mindfulness tools or apps for employees to use. This could be as simple as offering to pay for such an app of the employee’s choice through an employee reimbursement.

Remember that these digital options will not be a good fit for everyone—so there should be alternatives in place for others to join the related wellness programs or initiatives without the need to use an app or device. The key here is allowing those who already have (or desire) the technology to utilize it in ways that positively impact their wellbeing.