Reconciling quality of life at work and digital use

Significantly increased digital tool usage poses a challenge: how can we ensure it aligns with quality of work life?
Balancing Quality of Work Life (QWL) with heavy digital tech use
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The theme chosen for the 2022 edition of Quality of Life at Work Week is "In search of meaning at work". This is a perfect opportunity to make the link with digital quality of life, whose omnipresence blurs the boundaries between our professional and personal lives. What's at stake is the health and fulfillment of our employees.

Digital uses and risks of overconnection

After a long period of teleworking imposed by the Covid-19 health crisis, the use of digital technology at a distance from the workplace has strongly accelerated. The consequence is a lasting installation of physical and mental fatigue.

With digital technology, the temptation is to stay connected. The danger is even greater for managers, who find themselves at the center of communication between management and staff. If we're not careful, we run the risk of getting caught up in the spiral of over-connection and hyper-connection.

What is overconnection?

Overconnection concerns the multiplication of digital tools or communication channels (social networks, video, collaborative platforms, etc.).

What is hyperconnection?

Hyperconnection refers to the attitude of an employee who remains in constant contact with his employer or colleagues. They respond to all requests without distinction, and demand the attention of their colleagues without taking into account their personal time.

Managers are concerned by this drift, but not only. Some employees do not hesitate to let work overflow into their rest time.

The consequences of digital technology on the quality of life at work

The consequences on health are deleterious. Over-connection increases the mental load of employees. The problem comes from the numerous interruptions to work (notifications, urgent e-mails, calls, etc.) which deteriorate the quality of concentration. Added to this are the demands for immediate (tacit) responsiveness and information overload (especially emails). The result is:

  • Cognitive overload(FOMO" or feeling of missing out)
  • Decreased productivity and concentration
  • A loss of control over the organization of one's time

All this increases the imbalance between professional and personal life, considerably degrades the quality of life at work, and increases the psychosocial risk factor. In the most extreme cases, the risk of burn-out is on the horizon.

The challenge of the right to disconnect

The increasing influence of digital technology in the workplace has led to the need for legislation. This is how the Right to disconnect was added to the Labor Code with the law of August 8, 2016. It is part of the mandatory negotiation on the quality of life at work (QWL). It even constitutes a legal obligation with all companies with more than 50 employees.

In concrete terms, the right to disconnect reminds us of the right to be unreachable outside office hours. This means being disconnected from professional digital tools (cell phone, email, collaborative platforms, social networks, etc.), after working hours (in the evening), during weekends, time off and vacations.

The legal framework of the right to disconnect is not clearly defined, but an employer who fails to do so may be subject to sanctions.

Solutions to improve the quality of digital life

Respecting the right to disconnect has two virtues. It improves the quality of life at work and, in so doing, improves concentration and productivity. It is a discipline, even a lifestyle, that should be imposed, because everyone benefits from it (employers, managers and employees).

Disconnecting completely from work tools during evenings, weekends and vacation periods is not a lack of entrepreneurship. On the contrary, it is important to dissociate work time from legitimate rest time, to replenish your strength and come back to work in better shape.

What solutions can be put in place to fight against hyperconnection?

  • Determine (and stick to) fixed time slots for availability and breaks
  • Don't hesitate to cut yourself off from the outside world to accomplish tasks that require a high level of concentration (Deep Work)
  • Anticipate departures on leave in order to serenely pass the baton to the employees present (absence or reorientation messages, etc.).

Re-learning how to delimit and organize one's work time and rest time is a soft skill that is acquired over time. However, this skill is now fundamental at all levels of the company, as the deleterious nature of hyper-connection affects concentration and productivity. This is why it is important for managers to be particularly attentive to setting an example in terms of the right to disconnect. They need to learn to reduce immediate interactions and keep external stimuli at bay, especially in open-plan workplaces (which are the norm these days). 

The stakes are high; it is a matter of focusing one's attention on one important subject at a time. Finally, the current demands ofmultitasking are a lure, because they insidiously deteriorate the performance of employees, which has an impact on the competitiveness of the company.

To achieve this, it is important to carry out internal awareness-raising actions and to ensure the training of managers.