Digital wellness is getting attention at MWC19 Barcelona, where the relatively new topic will be introduced as one of eight core themes of the conference.
The world’s largest mobile technology event, centered largely around smartphones and hyper-connectivity, might not be the place you would expect to find serious discussion about digital well-being and maintaining healthy boundaries in our relationship with technology – or it might be a sign that the industry is maturing beyond fitness trackers and digital point solutions to taking a more holistic view of what constitutes a person’s well-being.
One of the key areas where digital well-being impacts our lives is how we interface with technology at work, including the amount of time we are connected and our perceived need to be connected.
“Our connectivity at work is a large part of the overall connection that we feel we need to maintain in our lives, given how much of our time is spent working,” says Dr. Autumn Krauss, principal scientist for Human Capital Management Research at SAP SuccessFactors. “It’s the company’s responsibility to promote a culture and establish norms that would allow an employee to have a healthy relationship with technology.”
Dr. Krauss will share her perspective on this topic at MWC19 in the panel discussion Striking a Balance in the Age of Digital Distraction, where she will talk about the implications of an “always-on” work culture on multiple facets of employee well-being, as well as other outcomes like job performance and employee engagement.
Having dedicated her career to improving employee well-being, health, and safety, Dr. Krauss offers consultative guidance to companies on how to foster a strong culture of well-being that drives both positive organizational and employee outcomes. Through her research on the psychology of work, she provides scientific support to the Well-Being at Work initiative at SAP and the SAP SuccessFactors solutions developed and delivered to its clients.
Launched at SAPPHIRE NOW in 2018, the Well-Being at Work initiative seeks to embed a culture of well-being and purpose in organizations to enrich the employee experience and drive peak performance by taking a holistic view of employee well-being that includes physical, psychological, social, motivational, and financial well-being.
“We know that the boundary between home and work is permeable,” says Dr. Krauss. “We say we want employees to be well at work, but we also have to acknowledge their personal well-being outside of work obviously finds its way inside the workplace – and likewise, we bring our work home with us, emotionally or tangibly.”
An important aspect of well-being is to effectively reduce chronic stressors. In a workplace setting that often means making improvements to the technology that employees use.
“What gets lost in these discussions is that it’s not just our relationships with smartphones and accessibility to email on the weekends, though this is an important segment of the conversation and should be,” explains Dr. Krauss. “The other part is, how easy is it for you to use the technology that you experience every day at work? How intuitive is it? How many errors or layers of confusing approvals do you get when you’re interfacing with the technology? This aspect of employees’ experience at work directly impacts their well-being, not to mention their productivity.”
Based in SAP SuccessFactors solutions, Well-Being at Work collaborates with the Future of Work and internal Global Health Management teams at SAP to take a three-pronged approach to enhancing employee well-being by improving the employee’s digital work experience:
For companies interested in promoting digital well-being in the workplace, Dr. Krauss recommends two best practices, both of which involve a change of company culture.
“There are a couple of different levers that companies can pull to build the right norms and culture. One is a classic: leadership behavior, in this case, that role models the right types of relationships with technology and accessibility. This is going to be more powerful than any type of general policy coming from HR,” she says. Extreme workplace behaviors – like sending multiple emails during off-hours, establishing untenable travel itineraries, and putting in unduly long hours at the office – send a powerful message to employees about what is expected of them if they want to get ahead.
“Another thing that is very powerful is talent management practices,” says Dr. Krauss. “Companies have a responsibility to identify and support leaders who are looking out for themselves from a health and well-being perspective and showing positive coping and resilience at work – and cultivating that in their teams. There’s nothing more powerful than saying this leader who has a healthy work-life balance and connectivity to work is the one that gets promoted.”
Can government regulation help to promote digital well-being in the workplace? Dr. Krauss acknowledges that regulation can be a backstop, like workplace safety regulation, by establishing baseline requirements that all companies must abide by. The difference, however, in comparison to well-being is that workplace safety starts and stops at the company door.
“Where I have found this not to work from a regulation standpoint is that well-being is incredibly personalized. What works for me as a healthy balance of work access and connection might not be suitable for someone else,” says Dr. Krauss, citing examples of ways in which a healthy work-life integration may be based on flexibility in an employee’s schedule that allows her to pick up her child at 3:00 p.m. to spend time together and then go back online for work after the child goes to bed. “When you consider these types of personalized accommodations and the amount of different kinds there might be, you can’t have a one-size-fits-all regulation and it can do more harm than good. A big part of well-being is allowing for choice.”
Dr. Krauss will be speaking at MWC19, taking place next week in Barcelona, in a series of sessions to present the latest research around Well-Being at Work and digital technology: