A people-first view of collaborative technology is essential for mental health


A people-first view of collaborative technology is essential for mental health

Technology’s ability to deliver an increasingly flexible, remote and collaborative workforce provides freedom, but can also create an ‘always on’ mental burden. The government sector is often first to adopt people-first policies and this issue is one being closely examined by IT managers and CIOs within government departments.

ATDEC National Sales Manager Australia & New Zealand, Dan Fletcher, says instead of technology being purchased by organisations because they feel like it’s something they have to do, now it’s something they need to do for people to collaborate and work more effectively, efficiently and productively.

“Aesthetically, that changes the look and feel of the office,” Fletcher says. “You can utilise that space more effectively for things like quiet spaces and thinking spaces.

“There’s a need to create an office space where people want to come spend time with their colleagues,” he says.

“We need to provide a welcoming environment where the technology fundamentally works, it’s easy to use and it doesn’t detract from getting the job done,” said Fletcher.

However Director of Stellae Consulting, Ellie Harris, warns that it’s now easier to work longer hours and for work to become more and more a part of the whole day.

“There are so many quality studies that show how bad this is — working more than ten hours increases your risk of heart attack, but also our brains need play time as well,” said Harris.

“When people are working remotely they still need to be supported and collaboration tools can help,” said Harris.

“However, technology needs to be designed with people in mind and be easy and reliable to use, so that employees have access to the right tools with a seamless experience, so that where they work no longer is relevant,” she said.

Time is also becoming somewhat irrelevant to most jobs, with increasing importance placed on outcomes and the KPIs of the role. In theory, many jobs can be completed entirely remotely as long as performance is measured on outcomes.

“On the other side of this, the realistic part of flexible work is most people still have to work in some form of a team, so there has to be a bit of an agreement about when it is acceptable for meetings to be held,” said Harris.

So how can we assist people to ensure they switch off from work and take care of their mental health? According to Harris, staff need to be on board with the technology and also supported by managers.

“Past tactics such as getting people to stand up and move every 40 minutes (which is not enough) or timers or computers switching off at certain times are alright ideas.

“People find ways around this though. If I am working on something to a deadline, and I have to take a break, that is going to increase my stress, not help it. That in turn will impact my thinking and probably reduce the quality of my work,” said Harris.

Employers have an important role in helping staff to draw the line between home and work. Education and using words and actions that show they support and acknowledge that people can only work so many hours in a day, is essential.

“Don’t create an overtime culture. A policy is only a policy, and management need to ensure staff are not working more than they should and support people to have balance,” said Harris.

You can experience the latest in workplace technology and gain inspiration and information for upcoming projects at Integrate, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, 27–29 August 2019. From collaboration solutions that are changing the way we work, to immersive soundscapes and definition-defying displays, Integrate showcases over 1000 brands and is Australia’s leading platform for audio visual experiences. You can also hear directly from Ellie Harris in the Integrate speaker program, Australia’s largest AV education training program.

You can register for Integrate by visiting integrate-expo.com.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Viacheslav Iakobchuk

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