Managing tech addiction in the workplace

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CRS Technologies' Nicol Myburgh says the most common forms of tech addiction are gaming and social media. 

On average, people touch their phones almost 3,000 times a day. This is hardly surprising given how we are exposed to technology in every facet of our lives. With this comes the risk of tech addiction, which can have a seriously negative impact on work performance.

Some of the most common forms of tech addiction are gaming and social media. In fact, internet gaming disorder is featured in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases. Studies show that males are generally more likely to become addicted to gaming, while females are more susceptible to social media. In many instances, the addiction does not revolve around the technology itself, but has more to do with the dopamine fix that comes with the instant gratification of moving up to the next level of a game, or receiving ‘likes’ for posts shared on social networking platforms.

For their part, companies can formulate policies to put healthy guidelines in place around the usage of technology in the workplace and establish boundaries that will ensure a healthy working environment.

However, they must make sure that employees adhere to these guidelines.

Some companies, especially those in the manufacturing sector, go so far as to eliminate cell phone usage during office hours, especially during meetings. This ‘forces’ employees to talk to their colleagues and interact meaningfully with one another.

Looking beyond policy, businesses can also institute tech-free zones where cell phones and laptops are not allowed. This encourages employee interaction and reduces the time people spend looking at screens.

Consequences

Like any other addiction, the impact of tech addiction on workforce performance is significant. For example, staying up all night to play games will see employees too tired to be productive at work. Similarly, spending long periods of time on social media platforms can lead to a drop in performance and even costly mistakes when people invariably become distracted.

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Another consequence of tech addiction is that more people are opting to send text messages rather than conduct a face-to-face conversation.  One has only to look at the younger generation’s lack of vital social skills because of their smartphones to see how this is impacting society’s ability to form relationships. This is likely to worsen as children increasingly become exposed to technology at an extremely young age. Just imagine the long-term impact of replacing a baby’s rattle with a tablet or smartphone.”

Next steps

From a practical perspective, companies can consider setting up counselling sessions for affected employees and enforce stricter rules to limit technology usage when it does not form part of the core requirements of a job role.

Even after putting all these mechanisms in place to assist employees, if the addictive behaviour continues, the company could have no choice but to charge the person with misconduct if they wilfully disobey a rule. All told, tech addiction is a very real concern in the digital world and if something is not done to curb its prevalence, it can quickly spiral out of control.

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