Studies show many workers don’t feel engaged with their job because it lacks a sustainable work culture[1]. They are expected to be “always on and available”, ways of working are not conducive to good health, and digital burnout and overwhelm are at an all-time high. For this reason, we are hearing more and more about the concept of human sustainability in the workplace. But what is it? And how does digital wellness support human sustainability?

Human sustainability refers to the practice of creating a work environment that promotes the long-term physical, mental, and emotional well-being of employees, while also supporting productivity and profitability. In the era of “quiet quitting” and “the Great Resignation”, a focus on human sustainability can make all the difference when it comes to employee engagement and satisfaction, as 77% of the workforce says they would consider leaving their job for one that better supports their well-being.

With over 70% of workplace communication being digital, it’s time to incorporate digital well-being practices that address the underlying issues that are undermining employee wellness. The future of work is digital–but it is not sustainable without addressing some of the core issues that are affecting worker well-being.

How can Digital Wellness help?

Digital well-being is a critical component of human sustainability as more and more workers are citing that “being constantly connected” to work due to technology is impacting their overall health and well-being.[2] Furthermore, digital distractions–such as email ‘pings’ and endless notifications are hindering productivity by stealing our attention and ability to focus.

Digital Wellness promotes the long-term well-being of employees by providing strategies to maintain health and well-being alongside technology, while ensuring efficiency and productivity. It promotes a positive work culture by emphasizing digital well-being measures that support the intentional use of technology and creating awareness as to how technology is impacting our physical and mental health.

Ways to Improve Human Sustainability through Digital Wellness:

There are a number of digital well-being measures that promote human sustainability in the workplace. They include:

🔶Employing healthy digital boundaries: Being “always on” has a negative effect on employee mood.[3] Therefore, being able to log-off without fear of backlash, or being viewed as “less committed” to their work, goes a long way in supporting employee wellness.

🔶Eliminating task switching: A digitally well employee knows that multi-tasking is incompatible with focused, productive work. By limiting task switching behaviours, workers are better able to focus their attention on what matters.

🔶Enhanced Virtual Emotional Intelligence: Employees with strong Virtual EI skills are trained in knowing the best practices in digital communication, thus relieving the frustrations and ambiguity that is often associated with digital communication.

🔶Provide limits to meetings and screen time. Studies show time spent in virtual meetings has increased 250% since the pandemic.[4] This contributes to zoom fatigue, physical aches and pains associated with sitting for long periods of time, as well as promotes inefficient multi-tasking behaviours.

🔶Conscious use. Ensuring that employees use digital devices efficiently and with intention, they minimizes stress, burnout, and digital fatigue that comes from over-consumption.

🔶Be more inclusive, virtually. Create an environment where everyone belongs. Employ universal design for learning (UDL) elements that are essential for some, but useful for all.

Other ways to ensure human sustainability in the workplace:

➡️ Provide flexibility
– Women are more likely than men to report that their work culture is unsustainable. Flexible scheduling, remote work options, and support for personal needs can help level the playing field.

➡️ On-going training and professional development

– In today’s dynamic workforce, ways of working are constantly changing and require on going up-skilling. Studies show that only 20% of employees at unsustainable companies say their managers provide opportunities for growth.[4] – Without training opportunities, employees are neither inspired or motivated to do their work.[5]

➡️ Champion diversity
– Ensure equal opportunities for career development and employ non-discriminatory hiring practices
– Use inclusive language in digital communications and ensure accessibility measures are in place

➡️ Create a Culture of Psychological safety
– Creating an environment where employees feel safe to bring up issues and ideas, without fear of reprimand, helps to create a social safety net and is essential for nurturing the emotional health of employees.

[1] Craig, W. (19 Jun, 2018). The importance of creating sustainable employees in the workplace. Forbes Magazine. Online.

[2] Ibid.

[2] Bhatt, J., Bordeaux, C., & Fisher, J. (2023). The workforce well-being imperative: Paving the way for human sustainability in workplace culture. Deloitte Insights.

[3] Ibid

[4] Cocchi, R. (n.d.) Do employees think they have a sustainable work culture? HR Morning