Last year, research carried out into screen usage by adults in Britain post lockdown revealed that half of those surveyed looked at screens for 11 hours or more a day. While more than 25% looked at screens for 14 or more hours each day. Many more meetings now take place online than before and may be adding to our increased usage. It may also help explain why the contrast between our first day back after a holiday, during which we’ve perhaps all but eradicated our screen usage, can have such a palpable effect as a sore head.
Some physical and emotional health effects of screen usage
Especially with the move to remote working, many of us have no option but to spend most of our working hours using screens. Our aim of reminding some of the effects screen usage can have is to help us take or investigate corrective actions before any of these issues become a problem to our wellbeing.
Physical effects –
- Poor posture resulting in sore necks, shoulders and backs
- Vision concerns including headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision or eye strain
- Being sedentary for long periods leading to muscle stiffness and other health issues
- Feelings of fatigue from constant screen usage
Emotional effects –
- Difficulty managing boundaries around email and media consumption
- Shorter attention span and lower motivation
- Social isolation and written communication perhaps coming across or being interpreted differently to an in-person conversation
- The stimuli from screens can stress our central nervous system which can lead to us being less empathetic and more impulsive, angry, or aggressive
4 Digital wellbeing self-care tips
- Look away from the screen – whether it’s a post-it note stuck to the top of our computer screen or a timed alarm, remember to look away from your screen. Ideally follow the
20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 metres away for 20 seconds.
- Eat away from the screen – we all know it’s too easy to eat a lunchtime sandwich without moving from our work computer or to eat our evening meal in front of a screen. For your wellbeing’s sake, try to eat at a table with some social interaction from family, friends or colleagues. If eating alone, try doing so without a screen being present.
- Have regular posture check-ins – while you’re reading this, what angle is your chin to your neck? Are your shoulders edging up towards your ears? Are you leaning towards your screen? Regularly checking our posture and correcting it can save us feeling the physical pain poor posture can cause when using screens for long periods of time.
- Create awareness and boundaries – similar to keeping a food or sleep diary, noting our digital usage over a few days can help us to see how our usage may be impacting on our free time and wellbeing. This can encourage us to cut unnecessary screen time and set some realistic boundaries.
3 Digital wellbeing tips for employers
- Provide regular, positive messaging that it’s ok, and in fact encouraged, to disconnect from work messages when not working. Emphasise how valuable it is to be in the moment and to be aware of how we can use our devices to benefit both our self-care and productivity.
- Reduce pressure and stress by encouraging staff to communicate their anticipated response time to clients and colleagues. This allows them to then focus on their response during time they have set aside for it rather than multitask immediately. It can also reduce the total time spent on screen for the task.
- Promote digital wellbeing with suggestions for disconnecting during working hours –
- Encourage regular breaks away from computer screens. Remind staff not to just swap to a mobile phone and be mindlessly scrolling throughout a work break.
- Emphasise the benefits of spending a short time in a green space, a walk, and communicating off screen where possible. Could these be realistically encouraged as options for team meetings or workplace discussions?
- Offer short self-care workshops to help promote the benefits of mindfulness, good sleep hygiene or yoga.
Some other tips on our blog to help our digital wellbeing
Many other mental health, resilience and wellbeing tips are available on our website – please have a browse to find some that work for you.
This tip appeared in our Summer 2023 newsletter. If you would like future editions of our quarterly workplace wellbeing newsletter sent directly to your inbox, please sign up here.