Leave your work at work before it kills you

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laptop_mail_pc_1600_wht_2103Taking work home these days doesn’t necessarily mean a briefcase full of papers. It’s more likely to be a digital connection in our “always on” culture.

Once upon a time you could go home and work couldn’t interfere. Now you have your laptop, your phone, your tablet: you are connected. So you are always on whether you like it or not.

This is the first generation that has had to deal with the ramifications of that” said a director of AXA PPP Healthcare which supported the study. (Professor Cary Cooper spoke out about this in 2015 – as I posted here.)

As a result home has become more stressful than the office according to a recent survey. This has linked the problem of making yourself available 24/7 with cardiovascular disease.

It seems more than 50% of the 550 workers surveyed at a London-based French bank are more stressed at home than at work as they try to relax while still thinking about work.

This researchers used wrist monitors to measure changes in heart rate and the results led the researchers to believe that it’s the spikes that are dangerous. “Dealing with work while at home is pernicious to health and is directly linked to cardiovascular disease. That is now measurable and before it was not”.

Stress levels were found to be dangerously high until about 2030 when young children went to bed but some people’s levels remained high until after midnight. A smaller number of them, over 25, woke up between 0300 and 0400 and some of them even started working during that time.

The research was sponsored by an insurance company which now plans to monitor staff in high pressure jobs to see if their ability to perform has been damaged by an inability to switch off. This is likely in the next three years.

No wonder some countries like France have banned e-mails after working hours and Japan is urging workers to take time off to go shopping and reduce “death by overwork” or karate.

We’ve known for decades that working over 50 hours a week is bad for men and their hearts, and more recently it’s been found that senior women suffer stress too.

Why people still put ourselves through this when they know (or should know) the health risks is hard to fathom although there is some US research which found that some people found work less stressful than being at home.

So is it job insecurity? Addiction to work? Fear of missing out (FOMO) or being off-line (FOBO)? Whatever it’s surely time to rethink our work-life balance and stick two fingers up to the American idea of work-life merge.


Dumbing down that smartphone

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icon_flow_smart_phone_loop_500_wht_9550Have we reached smartphone-peak?

Have we finally realised we need to unplug ourselves from endless apps and social media connections? No more anxiety from FOMO or FOBO?

The NoPhone might have been a prank by two Canadian entrepreneurs having a dig at the latest smartphone upgrade but now there is a real alternative: the Light Phone.

It’s the size of a credit card and can make calls and store 10 numbers and that’s it. Retro or what?

It will be launched in the US by two friends, Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang, who used to design Motorola phones (I loved my flip-top Motorola) but grew jaded with the constant pressure to come up with increasingly addictive and life-consuming apps.

If you believe the statistics – and I find these figures unbelievable and not sure of their source – we tap our phones on average 2,617 times a day…

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Humans have shorter attention span than goldfish

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school_leader_1600_wht_5247According to the latest research from Microsoft we now have an average attention span of 8 seconds, compared to 9 seconds for a goldfish.

We stay focussed until we get distracted by social media alerts, our computer or smartphones.

Over a day it has a detrimental effect on your productivity. Microsoft research suggests there is a “switch cost” as it takes 15 to 25 minutes to get our mind focussed on what we were doing before an interruption.

The microsoft survey placed attention span into three categories: sustained i.e. prolonged focus, selective i.e. avoiding distraction, and alternating i.e. switching between tasks.

You might think you can multitask but that’s a myth. You might be able to deal with a handful of things but what you are actually doing is switching attention between them. And each time you do it you lose time re-focussing.

Microsoft estimates that it takes 15 to 25 minutes to get back to where you were before you were distracted.

David Rock, a neuropsychologist, thinks we can probably manage, at the most, 4 demanding things. This is fewer than the famous 7 plus or minus two that George Miller hypothesised back in the 1950s. So are we getting stupider? Microsoft’s research in 2000 found that the average human attention span was 12 seconds, compared to 8 seconds today.

What seems to be happening is that our brain is not keeping pace with modern technological demands even creating a phenomenon known as “phantom text syndrome” where we believe we have heard an alert from our phone or tablet. This particularly affects teenagers who typically text their friends twice as often as speaking to them face to face and are more dependent on the technology.

Factors affecting our attention span are: media consumption, social media usage, technology adoption (something Professor Sir Cary Cooper has spoken about recently), and multiscreen behaviour e.g. texting while watching TV.

I’ve posted elsewhere about FOMO and related anxiety-related conditions.

The only way to deal with this type of problem is to turn off your phone or computer at regular intervals. It will not only reduce anxiety but increase productivity by improving your focus.

Being focussed uses the pre-frontal cortex which is where you can be more creative and control your emotions better.

People who have trouble focussing make more emotional decisions and pay less attention to emotional cues.

If you are a regular technology user take regular breaks, go for a walk in the park, and talk to your colleagues face to face!