The past two years have shown us that we have the ability to pivot, work remotely and for some, become even more productive than before.  However, this shift has meant Canadians are on screens and connected more than ever and we’re only now starting to see the adverse effects of so much time online.   

Consider this: 

  • The average Canadian is now spending about 11 hours per day looking at digital screens. 
  • For millennials, this number jumps to 13 hours per day. 
  • Adult Canadians are reporting levels of moderate to severe anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of depression as high as early in the pandemic. 
  • A recent study shows 67% of people feel less connected to colleagues, 59% feel more isolated from coworkers, and 56% found it harder to switch off after moving to working from home due to the pandemic. The same study also found that 37% of respondents had sleep problems.  

While technology and screens has forever changed the future of work, the impact of an always connected culture is being felt by employees across the world, contributing to increased burnout and The Great Resignation.  As employers begin to redefine a return to ‘normal,’ whether that be in office, virtual, or hybrid, it will be essential for leaders to keep teams connected and engaged while also ensuring there is enough time away from screens to preserve the mental health of their employees.    

Here are some ways to encourage more offline time in any work capacity:  

For a return to office: 

  • Encourage face-to-face meetings. 
  • Embrace tangible mediums to communicate like chalk boards, dry-erase boards, or even note pads.  
  • Consider implementing technology-free rooms or times of the day where employees can decompress and unplug.  
  • Incorporate outdoor walks, meetings or breaks into the day to boost physical and mental health while reducing screen fatigue.     

For remote or hybrid: 

  • Consider new features that help cut down on the harmful effects of screens.  
  • Flux, for example, is an app that reduces the blue light of your screen as the day progresses, limiting the effects closer to the evening.  
  • Integrate off-screen meetings (audio only), or schedule off-screen days where employees can have relief from meetings and video calls. 
  • Where possible, encourage meetups and foster opportunities for employees to gather in-person. 
  • Look at additional company benefits, like providing employees with blue light glasses or sunlight therapy lamps, as well as access to mental health resources and services.   

By becoming aware of the harmful effects prolonged screen time has on the mental well-being of employees, businesses can design working systems that enable resilience while still embracing the efficiencies that screens provide. Encouraging open dialogue between employees and employers will lead you to constructing unique solutions for the context. You can foster a culture that recognizes the value of disconnection just as much as connection that will lead to lasting resilience in ever-changing workplaces.