You probably already know the obvious ways technology addiction is affecting you. If your employees, under the guise of doing research for projects, spend far too much time surfing the Internet, their productivity will be diminished. Personal emails and tweets also add to downtime.
And I’m not singling out your employees for censure. You, too, may find that the lure of technology addiction affects your productivity.
The problems of technology addiction, however, go far deeper.
Overall Employee Quality Affected by Technology Addiction
Because technology addiction can play a significant role in medical errors, I closely studied this subject. In the course of my research, I uncovered information that should disturb you as an employer.
Many businesses are having difficulty hiring recent college graduates with the ability to think creativity and who can use a long-term approach to solving a problem. They lack frustration tolerance and get easily distracted.
They are so used to working in a virtual environment that they lack social and communication skills. The idea of teamwork is foreign to them, and they lack the ability to read non-verbal signals. All these factors make working in groups difficult for them.
One of the key elements of any addiction is that being separated from the object of addiction causes anxiety and physical stress. An alcoholic must have a drink. A technology addict must have his fix in the form of being online or in constant electronic communication.
For example, I have a friend who checks Facebook many times a day. She stays in a constant state of awareness of what all her friends are doing. If she was a full time employee, that could affect her concentration.
Experiments have been conducted with college students who agreed to spend a weekend separated from any form of online or cell phone activity. Before long, they began to exhibit the kind of withdrawal symptoms characteristic of alcohol and drug addicts.
The bottom line here is that no addiction is healthy. Physiologically, it stresses the body, especially the nervous system. In addition, those addicted are using a substance, physical or virtual, that buries emotions and the creative insights that may accompany them.
If you’re wired all the time, you have no downtime. Everyone needs to be able to step back periodically to take a breath, to slow down, and get some control over what they’re paying attention to.
What Can You Do?
Set an Example. You can’t lead any initiative for your employees to reduce time spent on devices and the Internet unless you, too, can step away from your machines.
Don’t Count on Programs that Block Sites (such as Facebook). Smart phones have made this a useless effort, and employees resent the attempt. Many will make a reasonable case that their particular work requires them to use the Internet.
Ban Devices from Meetings. Insist that they be turned off. Initially, this may make people uncomfortable. Again, take the lead. Distribute notebooks or paper tablets and pens. Some may not know how to use these antiquated devices, but they will learn.
Encourage Working Teams to Have Device-Free Lunch Together. The more you can encourage people, especially young people, to communicate and socialize, the more they will realize the real benefits of face-to-face communication. Practice will create improvement.
Consider Professional Help. You can find companies whose employees specialize in helping businesses work to reduce electronic addiction. Ask fellow corporate officers and leaders.
The more seriously you take this issue and work to reduce and, hopefully, eradicate it in your company, the more you foster your business’s healthy growth.
Listen to John Kriger, a technology addiction expert, share his tips in Legal Nurse Podcast 42, Destructive Technology Addiction.
And take a look in the mirror to see how technology is affecting you.