Working from home makes it increasingly difficult to disconnect, posing significant risks to our well-being. That’s why companies need to start exploring efficient alternatives and tools to ensure employees have time for breaks during work.
The long-awaited new normal continues to be shaped by the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Faced with the latest and sudden wave of infections, companies that had previously returned their employees to the offices in September have now reintroduced remote work.
Digital exhaustion caused by the lack of breaks during the workday
Digital exhaustion, also known as “digital burnout,” is a state of physical and mental exhaustion resulting from a person’s deteriorating relationship with their work. In recent months, it has been a growing phenomenon, as many professionals have struggled to balance telecommuting. This has prompted companies and even governments to seek strategies to regulate digital disconnection, which is the primary factor behind this phenomenon.
Spanish legislation has regulated digital disconnection to promote rest during work hours and ensure employee well-being through Royal Decree Law 28/2020, which refers to the previous Article 88 of the Organic Law 3/2018 on Personal Data Protection and Digital Rights Guarantee. These regulations include limitations on working hours, the establishment of rest periods, and the obligation of companies to ensure employees’ right to digital disconnection, with non-compliance potentially leading to sanctions by labor authorities.
For both employees and employers, after a year of significant changes and increased virtual activity, it is essential to remember how to approach the new year with best practices to prevent digital exhaustion, or the well-known burnout, which is particularly prevalent among new remote workers who are less accustomed to dealing with this virtual professional reality.
Various studies confirm this trend. One study conducted by the EADA business school reports that more than half of remote workers, 52% of them, experience signs of mental fatigue due to continuous virtual activities. Another study, conducted by Stanford University in the United States, highlights that women are more affected by digital fatigue, in part due to the stress caused by video conferences.
Therefore, it is essential to reflect on and establish a set of habits to help professionals in all companies avoid digital exhaustion, resulting from a lack of disconnection and the need to create dedicated break times during the workday.
Thanks to digital transformation and new ways of working, various technological tools and software have been developed to protect employee well-being and their working experience in different development environments.
At WorkMeter, we have improved to promote employee health and well-being. We have incorporated rules for digital disconnection, a feature that calculates employees’ working times and, if they have been using the computer for too long, notifies them to take a break – to stand up and rest their eyes. It also reminds them not to respond to emails or calls outside of working hours, thereby safeguarding employees from potential digital exhaustion.
In addition to incorporating tools that ensure breaks during the workday and employee well-being, it is also advisable to make certain changes. There are two habits related to rest that change management experts and human resources professionals recommend to prevent burnout.
This technique is successful worldwide because it is simple, easy to implement, and accessible to all remote professionals. It has been shown to increase productivity.
Micro-breaks consist of short 5- to 10-minute breaks for every hour worked, interspersed throughout the workday as needed by the employee. The key is for the employee to have several 15-minute breaks during the workday.
This practice falls under an essential employment policy of caring for employees, which is increasingly adopted by companies. In this model, employees learn to manage their own work and leisure time. It is a viable model only if appropriate technological tools are available for work and employee management – software that notifies employees of their scheduled breaks, longer rest periods, the end of the workday, project progress, and team activity, allowing them to synchronize and work independently.
During the development of new work modalities such as telecommuting or hybrid models, organizations should provide employees with the freedom to adapt their breaks to their needs and work rhythms.
Five-minute breaks to get some fresh air, meditate, stretch muscles, or take a short walk have been shown to make professionals more energetic and focused on their tasks. According to a recent study from the University of North Carolina, employees who take micro-breaks are more focused, productive, reduce stress, increase well-being and job satisfaction, and contribute to avoiding common office injuries and discomfort.
Improving Nighttime Rest and Respecting Digital Disconnection
To achieve optimal results, the above technique should be complemented with adequate nighttime rest and a well-planned digital disconnection. These practices allow employees to return to work in perfect condition to concentrate on their tasks and perform at their best.
Organizations are redefining productivity, and there is no future for presenteeism; it is not profitable for anyone. Telecommuting is unstoppable and growing, and it requires appropriate technological tools to manage workflow and the people carrying it out.