Distraction or Addiction?

Laptops, Mobile phones, tablets, iPods – most of us couldn’t live without these handy little devices.  There is a growing worry however that this relationship with technology is becoming unhealthy, and these concerns have culminated in various books, treatments and courses to deal with ‘virtual and technology addiction.’  Psychologists believe this is the result of the world we live in changing so drastically and our brains having little time to adapt. If it doesn’t sound serious, it is. Experts say our unhealthy relationships with phones, laptops and computer games can lead to physical and psychological problems.

Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan, from the Centre for Technology Addiction based in London, says, “I’m seeing more problems with insomnia, chronic fatigue, people finding problems concentrating.  A person’s concentration and their ability to engage and focus on one thing is affected by their use of social media.  We become more “distractable”.”  These findings have a direct impact on office workers, who spend most of the working day behind a computer possibly using social media as a distraction from their work.  A recent study of 2,000 office workers suggest staff spend 44 minutes of the day on social media sites, and over an hour checking online news stories.  60% of the workers in the survey said they felt as if they needed distractions to break up the working day.

With these figures in mind, the question needs to be asked about who the responsibility around technological distractions lies with – the employer or the employee?  Is it up to employers to reduce time behind computer screens, or should staff learn some self-control?  We think both parties should play their part in creating a more productive office.

Employers: Companies have a choice whether to physically block access to social media sites in order to allow staff to focus on their tasks or permit unrestricted internet access that places the burden of management on the employee.  Blocking could be counterproductive as it may just result in workers checking their mobile phones more often to get online and actually being less productive.  The sedentary dullness of office life could be improved by a physical activity which would be sure to keep concentration levels higher with office fitness equipment, active seating and even standing desks all suitable for getting employees out of the sitting rut – encouraging greater activity leaves the brain with less time to concentrate on technology addiction.  Encouraging employees to take a five-minute walk around the building every hour is also something worth suggesting.

Employees: To reach the highest levels of productivity you have to take control and organise your work life.  Find ways to counter boredom and inactivity through regular walks to the kitchen or the bathroom.  Keep social media to manageable levels, and if possible cut it out of your work routine completely.  With technology improving constantly, social media is readily available on the move with added extras such as voice recognition – try and discipline yourself to using social media on the commute to and from work and in your lunchbreak.  It can also be used as a reward in which you permit yourself to check Facebook only when a certain number of key tasks have been completed and not before.