Using Technology to Stay Mentally Well in Remote Workplaces

Using Technology to Stay Mentally Well in Remote Workplaces

Over the past year, many employers have relied on technology to keep their businesses running. Apps, websites, and social media platforms have become a lifeline for brick-and-mortar stores. Video conferencing software has become an essential part of the remote workplace as millions of Canadians continue to work from home during the pandemic.

With hours spent staring at computer screens, not to mention the time we spend on our phones and televisions when we are logged out of work, we have to recognize the impacts our technological tools have on health and productivity. In particular, remote workers may face additional mental health challenges at home where social interaction is low and technology use is high.

Remote operations are becoming a mainstay for many businesses and, according to a recent study, 33 percent of remote workers would rather quit their jobs than return to their offices full-time (BNN Bloomberg, 2021). With businesses finding new ways to thrive remotely, we must ensure that employees can thrive too. Using the technology at our disposal to stay mentally well can help offset some of the negative effects and keep remote employees and workplaces happy and healthy.

How We Get “Zoom Fatigue”

Long before the pandemic, experts have been warning us of the potential impact technology use can have on our mental well-being. Research shows that it may be leading to an increase in depression and anxiety. It can also lead to a loss of sleep from the impact of blue light on our sleep chemicals two to three hours before bed.

Now, with video conferencing shaping the way remote workers connect with employers, coworkers, and clients, there are additional mental health concerns to consider. Feeling burnt out or tired from the constant screen time has been described as “Zoom fatigue” and can mentally tax employees in the following ways:

  • Information processing. Video calls make our brains work harder to understand nonverbal clues, challenge our decoding skills by presenting us with multiple screens at once, and lead to continuous partial attention, which can be extremely mentally draining.
  • Maintaining social interactions. Even without choppy video or delayed audio, conversing over video call can be awkward because of the lack of eye contact and the inability to support parallel conversations. The lack of body cues can also make it difficult to decode meaning when interacting with others.
  • Blurring home-work boundaries. The lack of physical transition time from meeting to meeting can leave little time to mentally recharge, and the constant presence of work tools at home may pressure employees to stay logged in far past work hours.

Applications for Mental Health

Despite some of its harmful effects, we can find ways to use technology to assist in improving our mental health. Applications can be a useful way to access new resources, develop strategies, and connect with others. Here is a list you can use to find an app that works for you:

  • Calm – focuses on meditation, improved sleep cycles, body stretches and calming music to assist people with stress, anxiety and relaxation.
  • Headspace – focuses on practicing mindfulness and meditation to decrease stress and increase focus and compassion.
  • MindWell U – focuses on building resiliency, working in collaboration and creating mindfulness strategies that are personalized to the individual.
  • LifeArmor – with a target to the military population, this app aims to provide support for those individuals suffering from PTSD. Self-assessments assist an individual in managing problems relating to past trauma, anxiety, relationship issues, substance abuse and more.
  • MoodTools –helps users lift their mood through monitoring depression levels, a thought diary and a safety plan involving coping strategies, professionals to call, and more!
  • CBT Online – this website supplies several resources to assist an individual in changing their thoughts through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Resources include an online therapist through live chat, worksheets, journals, activity plans, tests, forums, and yoga.
  • Moodfit – designed to help you get into mental shape, this app helps you understand your feelings, track your moods, and dispute overly negative thoughts
  • Mood Mission – helps you learn coping skills by recommending “missions” based on what the user is feeling
  • Sanvello – provides techniques for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as provides users with CBT tools and a mood tracker.
  • Happify – on this app, play games designed to reduce stress, build resilience, and overcome negative thoughts. The ultimate goal is to make you happier while allowing you to work on a specific skill track.
  • Shine – this is a self-care app that focuses on self-improvement. It includes meditations, a gratitude journal, a mood tracker, and an inclusive community where you can connect with other members at any time.
  • Insight Timer – a free meditation app designed to help with sleep, anxiety, and stress
  • Exercise apps like Sweat, Strava, FitOn, and Nike App – these applications can help track your exercise, provide you with exercise programs, and connect you with fitness experts across the world.

 What Can Employers Do?

  • Assist employees in setting boundaries around answering work-related emails after hours.
  • Keep video calls to a minimum. Vary your communication using phone calls, emails, and group huddles to prevent information overload.
  • Check into your team’s well-being before diving into meetings to ease the transition and create “watercooler” moments.
  • Suggest ways that employees can manage their video call time and conserve energy while on these calls. For example, suggest that meetings are kept to once a week and that employees close down extra tabs and windows while on their calls to eliminate distractions.
  • Allow access to applications such as the ones listed above for managing mental health.
  • Offer mental health resources such as virtual training or request the assistance of an Occupational Therapist to help employees find tools and strategies.

What Can Employees Do?

  • Set boundaries for checking emails and logging into work.
  • Shut off technology at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Plug in your phone away from the bedroom to allow you to have uninterrupted sleep.
  • Make a clear distinction between home and work by separating these spaces and using separate devices for work and leisure.
  • Change your video settings to speaker mode so you only see one person at a time.
  • Use your screens intentionally. Distinguish between draining technological activity and nourishing technological activity.
  • Use mental health applications to support your meditation and mindfulness practice.

How Can Gowan Consulting Help?

Occupational Therapists are the ideal mental health professionals for supporting your employees. Their knowledge of the workplace allows them to help modify jobs and environments and give employees to tools to develop personal strategies. They are not just talk therapists—they are activity and strategy-based and they empower employees to take ownership of their function and productivity. They practice work-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is an evidence-based approach to ensuring that employees can have better self-care and resiliency.

Gowan Consulting is a national organization with more than 150 Occupational Therapists across Canada. We provide Occupational Therapy coaching virtually and onsite. Ease of access and proactive onsite or virtual support ensures that employees can stay at or return to work.

We want to help your organization – make a referral here or contact us at gowanhealth@gowanhealth.com to learn more.

Tools and Training

  • FREE webinar series: Accommodation Conversations: Our free webinar series on accommodating employees during and after a pandemic has the following open sessions:
    • April 22, 2021: Unique Accommodation Issues
    • April 29, 2021: Dealing With the Program Issues
  • Implementing the CSA Work Disability Standards: This interactive virtual program includes three hours of virtual training and online modules to help employers understand the components of the Work Disability Management System Standards published in 2020.
  • Our virtual office ergonomic assessments are now ON SALE for a limited time! Now until April 30th, get $100 off – that’s only $300 for a virtual ergonomic assessment! Make a referral here to take full advantage of the deal.
  • Manager Mental Health Training is now running all year long! Our next session takes place on May 18, 2021. Get a full list of dates and more information on the sessions here.

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