Choosing When to Use Technology to Practice Mindfulness in the Workplace
To truly practice mindfulness in the workplace, you need to know how and when to use technology. Technology includes any application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. In the industrial age, technology was dominated by mechanical machinery driven by the steam engine. But in the twenty-first century, your daily life is probably dominated by digital technology. The recent explosion in the use of digital technology is affecting every organization in some way.
The evolution of the human brain didn’t take modern technology into account. So these changes are creating a big challenge, even for the powerhouse that resides in your skull. The pervasive use of technology often means that you may not even question your use of email or texting to communicate, but mindfulness offers you a chance to momentarily reflect before you immerse yourself in sending another deluge of messages out into the web.
Recognizing the pros and cons of technology
Digital technology certainly has many benefits in the workplace. Communication via texts and instant messaging is immediate. Video conferencing means that time isn’t wasted on traveling to meetings. Work can be completed on the move. With laptops and smartphones, you can stay connected and keep working in planes, trains, and automobiles. And with the processing power of computers, technology is used to manage huge amounts of data from customers to help you decide how best to serve their needs.
Does the use of technology have any drawbacks? Here are a few disadvantages that are often overlooked:
- Compulsive use of digital communication: Email can change from a tool to an addiction. Constant checking of email, even when other tasks are more pressing, wastes both time and energy and ultimately reduces the company’s productivity.
- Reduced ability to focus: Too much use of technology can make you distracted, as you jump from one task to the next. A lack of extended time working on just one task reduces your brain’s ability to focus.
- Less face-to-face time: The more time you spend using technology, the less time is available for face-to-face meetings. This reduction in human contact can make working relationships a little shallower and result in lower levels of trust and understanding between people.
- Inefficiency resulting from multitasking: With technology comes the temptation to multitask. Multitasking leads to reduced productivity and a lack of satisfaction.
Mindfulness can help you to notice your new relationship with technology so that you’re more in control rather than being a slave to your digital devices.
Rebalancing your use of technology
Using technology too much is a problem. If you’re used to checking your phone every minute of the day for messages, you may struggle to concentrate when in a meeting or listening to your boss. Inefficient habits when online may mean that you end up surfing from one website to another instead of completing your tasks. And deciding to always communicate via technology rather than meeting face to face can lead to a loss of opportunities to discuss new ideas and create a deeper and more trusting relationship with colleagues or customers.
You need to recognize that an aversion to technology can be an issue too. If you’re the CEO of the organization and decide not to make best use of technology, your competitors may surpass you. Using outdated technology may frustrate your staff and mean that you struggle to attract the talent you need to succeed.
A balanced approach is the answer. Most companies have embraced the use of technology, and that’s probably a good thing. But you may not know how to use technology in a more mindful way so that you’re not in a constant state of distraction or miscommunicating with others as you respond on a purely emotional level. A set of strategies is urgently required in the workplace to help individuals make more conscious choices in their use of technology.
One of the most effective ways of managing your technology is having downtime — time when you switch off from technology. Computers are different from humans. Computers work best if they’re never switched off. They can go on and on working without rest. If you stay connected and switched on without time to recharge, however, you will burn out. Your attentional resources will deplete rapidly, as will your energy levels, enthusiasm, and intelligence.
So having a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, and sometimes a few weeks away from technology is key to your success. For more on this topic, see the “Dealing with information overload” sidebar.
Here are a few ways to create digital downtime, based on how much time you have available:
- A few minutes: Take a break for a few minutes every half-hour or so if you work on a computer all day. Taking a step back, concentrating on a few deep, conscious breaths, and walking around are good for your body and mind.
- A few hours: When the workday is over, take a break from the screen. It’s common for people to work at a screen all day, and relax at home by watching another screen. Refresh yourself by socializing, doing a mindfulness practice, taking up a hobby, or participating in sport.
- A few days: Take time off from technology every week. Aim for at least one day off per week if possible; Saturday is a good day for many people. See whether you can leave your phone behind, avoid checking email or social media, and do something more natural and energizing for you.
- A few weeks: If you can, take a few weeks vacation at least once a year. While on vacation, see if you can have an extended period of time away from phones, computers, and so on. This is probably when you’ll have your creative juices flowing as your mind comes up with unique solutions for challenges you’ve been facing in the workplace or home life. If you’re connected digitally every day, you’ll be amazed at how clear your mind becomes following a break from all that for a week or so.