The risk of depression is higher amongst people whose days include more than six hours of screen time, according to a study published in the journal of Preventative Medicine. Mental Health Month, which takes place in October, is a good reminder to take inventory of how many hours a day we spend glued to our screens and take steps to reduce the negative effect this can have on mood.
“Technology is engineered to be addictive – accompanying us at work, home, the gym and everything in between. For the office bound and anyone who works in tech, screen time is a professional hazard that can impact quality of sleep, stress levels and productivity,” says head of local hosting company 1-grid.com, Thomas Vollrath.
Always eager to meet a need, tech developers have created numerous tools to combat the problem. From software that reduces the blue light omitted by screens to apps that give you points for time away from your smartphone or that break up the work day into productive periods, individuals are encouraged to cut back on their tech time – albeit passively.
According to Vollrath, buffering the impact of screen time on staff mental health and morale should go beyond this, informing office culture and design. His tried and tested tips for employers include:
- Encourage activity – the strongest combatant against depression associated with sedentary work days is moving around. Remind staff to stretch, shift position and walk around regularly.
- Maximise greenery and natural sunlight – proven to reduce stress and restore attention, plants and sunlight are great buffers against the static and unnatural light of screens.
- Build blackout nap dens – naps can help refresh and restore energy, especially when taken in quiet, dark rooms that banish blue lights and bleeps from digital devices. For techies, who often work odd hours, these are a must.
- Remember to bond – interactions between colleagues in real life is important – over coffee, lunch or a group activity. This nurtures empathy and teamwork.
- Cut back on notifications – encourage staff to disable distracting pings and notifications for everything but the most urgent of matters. There’s no need to be drawn to check one’s phone every five minutes.
”Well designed offices with recreational spaces and plenty of natural light are worth investing in if it means staff are happier and healthier,” says Vollrath. Bringing this thinking to their new head offices,1-grid.com has built in games rooms, nap pods and creative nooks. Colourful and engaging furniture, known to boost mood, provide comfortable spots for needed diversions from screen time.
Focusing specifically on the SMB market in South Africa, 1-grid.com offers domain, web and email hosting, SSL certification, website design and online marketing expertise to their customers. The company is in the process of growing into a specialised online application platform and is recruiting teams of techies to get them there.