May is Mental Health Awareness month. If you’re like most American workers, you’ve had job stress at some point. But when it’s cumulative and chronic, it leads to burnout. According to research from Indeed in 2021, 52% of employees said they were burned out. Those who worked virtually were more likely to say burnout worsened over the course of the pandemic (38%) than those working on site (28%). Indeed’s 2022 State of Small Business Hiring report found that 42% feel consistently overwhelmed, 33% have experienced burnout, 31% have not been able to take time off or a vacation due to vacant roles and 41% say their stress level has significantly increased.
What Digital Burnout Is And How To Prevent It
In 2019, The World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified workplace burnout as a medical diagnosis, including the condition in the International Classification of Diseases: “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The more severe your burnout, the more stressed you are at work and the more difficult it is to fulfill your professional obligations.
digital burnout—caused by too much screen time and not enough green time—saps the energy and focus of legions of people spending hours remotely working, practicing telemedicine or taking online classes. Digital burnout impedes your mental and physical health and compromises career success over the long haul. “Now that we’re all spending hours each day on Zoom,” said Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, “we need to create new rituals and practices within Zoom Meetings to prevent virtual fatigue.”
Once burnout takes hold, you’re out of gas, and you’ve given up all hope of surmounting your obstacles. The key is prevention, and five practices can help prevent digital burnout:
- Take regular breaks. Burnout can appear when we spend too much time focusing on something without taking a break. Particularly when working from home, it can be more difficult to know when to stop working or step away from your digital devices. As well as taking time to recharge throughout the day, make sure to use digital calendar tools to let your colleagues know when they can and can’t contact you.
- Value human interaction. Opportunities for face-to-face human interaction have been few and far between over the past couple of years. With in-person meetings switching to virtual, and stay-at-home mandates limiting social mixing, it’s easy to spend more time glued to digital devices. But this can contribute towards a multitude of health issues, such as bad posture, headaches and even obesity.
- Focus on one task at a time. When you’re being pulled in several different directions, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the workload. Feeling this way can be one of the main causes of burnout, so be sure to prioritize your time and don’t spread yourself too thin.
- Make use of screen time functions. Modern smartphones come equipped with features that allow you to track the time spent on your device. They also have tools that can be turned on and off to help you focus on the task at hand, and prevent any distractions throughout the working day.
- Avoid back-to-back meetings. Back-to-back meetings throughout the day can have a serious impact on both your productivity and mental well-being. Where possible, look to schedule meetings to last 25 or 55 minutes, to give yourself and your colleagues time to have a short break in between calls.
5 Guidelines To Find Effective Digital Mental Health Solutions
Research shows that 96% of employers provide mental health resources to staff, but the effectiveness of this support doesn’t always translate, and only one in six employees feel supported by these resources. According to Jennifer Gendron, Koa Health’s Chief Commercial Officer, tech companies across the globe are racing to develop innovative technologies to address the unmet mental health needs of a global market. But she adds a word of caution to consumers. “While this movement has accelerated the mass-accessibility of mental health resources, consumers are left to fend for themselves in determining the solutions that are legitimately helpful and which have the potential to cause more harm than good. Deciphering between solutions that can offer effective support from those who serve as a mere distraction has never been more critical.”
With so many digital mental health solutions to choose from, Gendron provides five criteria to help you identify those that are most legitimate, effective and accessible:
- Evidence-based modalities. Many apps claim to be evidence based, yet only three percent of solutions have the evidence to back them up. Asking about a solution’s clinical trials and third-party evidence will protect you against false claims and ensure proof of concept.
- An ethical approach and personalized user experience. Mental health is not a one-size-fits all issue, so why would you take a one-size-fits-all approach? Users care deeply about not just the efficacy of a solution but also its accessibility, freedom from biases and trustworthiness. Very few people are interested in another difficult-to-use tool and fewer still want to use a product that’s not inclusive of their unique life experiences. And nearly no one is willing to hand over their personal data to a service provider that doesn’t offer adequate protection.
- Expert led. Many of the products on the market don’t have the backing of even one mental health professional, much less an experienced team of behavioral scientists, psychiatrists and mental health experts. The best solutions will be supported by industry thought leaders and mental health experts. Does the company have a Scientific Advisory Board? Who sits on their Board of Directors? Research the clinical background behind the brand to better understand who is providing expertise and guidance.
- A range of modalities. There are many apps that offer one solution, like meditation or sleep training or telehealth counseling to address the entire spectrum of mental health challenges. But the best workplace mental health apps were built with a deep knowledge of the mental health continuum and offer multiple modalities to help the widest range of individuals to ensure support at every level.
- Rooted in science. An effective digital-first approach to mental health will leverage existing therapies to guide the most effective user journey. The best digital solutions will also have health content certifications from third party reviewers like ORCHA (Organization for the Review of Care and Health Applications) or NAICS (North American Industry Classification System).
The mental health crisis is expected to continue into the coming years. The importance of identifying effective and accessible digital mental health solutions that will be key to helping the workplace cope with ongoing mental health challenges.