Niall Watters of is sitting in a bright space, smiling into the camera and wearing a bright blue suit.
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What is digital wellbeing and why does it matter?

21 May 2020

How would you describe your relationship with technology? Niall Watters of recommends that you think about it.

Having worked across technology, travel and training development, Niall Watters now leads in a bid to help people develop healthy relationships with technology. The organisation, which recently announced a partnership with training and development company Thevaluespace, uses real-time insights and data to help people and teams embrace digital culture and build better tech habits.

Here, Watters shares his advice on taking care of our digital wellbeing, particularly as many of us continue to work from home.

‘Employees that can develop better tech habits will be the ones equipped for success going forward’

For anyone unfamiliar with digital wellbeing, could you explain what it is?

Digital wellbeing is a term used to describe a person’s relationship with technology and the role that it plays in their life. It relates to the impact that technology has on our emotional, mental and physical health, both from a positive and negative aspect.

Why is it important for employees today?

As the renowned professor and author of Deep Work, Cal Newport, puts it, productivity in the 21st century is a superpower and the ability to concentrate without distraction is becoming increasingly valuable. Our technological dependencies and habits have diminished our ability to focus for prolonged periods as we are constantly interrupted by notifications.

Individual, team and company performance are all reliant on valuable output, which can only be achieved by complete focus and dedication on a given task or project. The productivity of someone who only checks their mobile a few times per day versus someone who checks their mobile circa 15 times per hour (the average number is much higher at the moment given the data we are collecting) will be much greater.

This will result in much better individual performance over time and a greater contribution to team and company performance overall. Those employees that can develop better tech habits will be the ones equipped for success going forward.

Is digital wellbeing important now that we’re working from home?

It’s absolutely fundamental. We are seeing a huge increase in tech usage at present, as you’d imagine. People who were previously using their mobile phones for approximately two hours per day are now spending six hours per day on average.

Prior to Covid-19, social media usage was approximately 2.5 hours per day in Ireland. Our research is showing that this has shot up drastically.

This presents a number of challenges, such as the regular consumption of ‘fake news’ and non-educational content, impact on sleep quality due to being connected all day, impact on innovative and creative thinking that is achieved offline, and so on.

A few weeks back, it was reported that up to 40pc of workers are struggling with remote working and our figures are showing an increase since then, so companies must act fast to help their employees and set them up for success in terms of working remotely. Digital wellbeing is central to that.

How can someone work towards better digital wellbeing?

The key is your mindset and becoming more aware of your current tech habits and usage. Start to notice the role technology is playing in your life, and then work to alter that. For example, if you currently work with your phone next to you all day, turn off notifications and place your phone out of sight. This will limit digital distraction and allow you to get more work done.

If you are spending two hours per day on social media, start to try and decrease that time. Instead of scrolling newsfeeds and looking at photos, opt for educational content. Your future self will thank you.

By not taking your phone into the bedroom, your exposure to blue light emission will decrease which will result in better sleep quality, leading to less anxiety and greater productivity the following day. Simple changes made consistently over time will make a huge impact.

What are some things that should be avoided?

Mindless scrolling should be avoided at all costs. Not only is it a waste of time, but the information being consumed is of non-value add. Over usage of social media accelerates subconscious lifestyle comparison, which has a direct correlation with increasing levels of anxiety.

However, it is very easy to fall into that trap due to habit and boredom. Just ask yourself the question: ‘How can I better spend this time and use it to help me work towards achieving my goals?’

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