Business 30 April 2018
If technology was human, it would have received an accolade for world domination. From the moment we awake until the time our heads touch the pillow at night, technology has become intertwined into almost every aspect of our daily lives, and its presence is on the rise. The internet, as an example, has experienced an increase of 100 million worldwide users, bringing to the total figure to 3.6 billion during 2016-2017, according to Statista. Despite the surge, is technology enhancing our lives or creating a feeling of disconnection?
According to recent figures published by NHS Digital, a gender disparity exists in how technology affects males and females, with a higher rate of mental health disorder symptoms (including depression, anxiety, and irritability) recorded among women than men. And, crucially, experts have identified the pressures of social media as a contributing factor. For all its intentions, social media users indicating a feeling of reduced happiness (compared to their counterparts on social networks), is on the upward. But the issue stems broader as technology continues to impact other areas of our lives.
"For all its intentions, social media users indicating a feeling of reduced happiness (compared to their counterparts on social networks), is on the upward."
A lack of time
“It appears that we have a culture, at least in the US, which advocates more of a work-life balance, but current research on the subject describes employees having a tougher time finding that balance,” says Dr. Colleen Mullen, a therapist who specializes in ‘coaching through the chaos’. “Work weeks are longer compared to 20 years ago, and technology sees people often tethered to their phones, on calls and emails that are expected to be answered.” The flow of new technology entering the market creates an air of urgency to remain continuously “plugged in,” in turn creating stress and anxiety in areas which previously didn’t exist.
“Despite there being very few circumstances in which a person absolutely must stay connected 24/7, there is sometimes the attachment for escapism purposes and other times it can be a case of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) that lends itself to always having to be ‘on’,” explains Dr. Mullen. “I’ve never a found a person to believe their entire business would fold if they were to take a few hours a night off their phone or computer.”
"Ultimately, our constant need to check in has detracted from focused productivity as we are faced with more outlets for distraction."
Are we more productive?
Whilst technology has streamlined our day to day functioning, facilitating the ease of workflow and allowing for greater flexibility than ever before, has it increased our productivity? For all its practicality, the desire to remain “plugged in” has opened the door to unwanted distractions, in turn hindering our ability to focus. “As an example, I often see clients wrapped up in the maze of dating apps and online dating sites,” says psychotherapist and life coach and recovery coach Dr. Sherry Gaba.
“They can’t turn off their anxiety waiting for that next text to arrive from that potential date, leading to a lack of focus on their projects at work because they are too obsessed with waiting for that next dating app swipe to make its way.”
Inc.’s recent article on the topic of unplugging in business explores the positive aspects of implementing periods of “unplugging,” to allow focused pockets of energy which can generate ideas to move a business forward. “Programming downtime into your day refuels and refreshes your ideas from your logical left-brain to your creative right brain for more ideas, intuition, productivity, and creative insights," Dr. Gaba says.
"You often get your best ideas whilst driving, napping, exercising and taking a shower,” outlines Dr. Gaba. The Best of BBC Future argued that technology may be enabling us to tick more things off our list at a quicker pace, but the reality is a shift in how we work, rather than how much we’re doing. Our lifestyle sees us in search of filling every minute of downtime with output, but there is a limit. Ultimately, our constant need to check in has detracted from focused productivity as we are faced with more outlets for distraction.
Why we need to unplug to reconnect
“One of the many benefits of switching off from technology is bringing about rest to your fatigued brain so you can work more efficiently and effectively. When you are tired, you don’t think as clearly, creatively, or effectively and are therefore more apt to make mistakes, and making impulsive decisions at all hours is now the new norm. This merged life is frantic and messy having to switch back and forth from mommy to worker bee,” explains Dr. Gaba.
“I recommend to my clients a technology detox, exploring with them the benefits of unplugging to allow time for thoughtful reflection, creative inspiration and explore activities that recharge their energy and reconnect them with themselves.”
Even for our physical health, unplugging has its benefits. A 2016 study published in Computers on human behavior discovered that people who left their mobile phone at home spent more time in the higher intensity workout zone than those who use their phone during a workout. Further, technology has bred increased laziness, with more time spent sitting and straining at screens, leading to other issues including body aches and vision alteration. And it also affects our ability to communicate with those nearest and dearest to us, with many of us suffering from feelings of isolation and loneliness.
We can’t dispute the remarkable impact technology has afforded and its crucial role in modern lifestyle, but the improved life quality from disconnecting is “incentivizing,” as put by Dr. Mullen. “The benefits gained range from better sleep, more time to spend with family and friends, and less intrusive thoughts, to keeping up with everyone else and having the time to think about life circumstances and work through some struggles.”
Armed with the facts, are you ready to unplug?
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.