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Mindful Places: Taking Down Technostress


Photo of a mindful spot to relax in corporate office
Image: Tom Arban Photography - Sunlife Financial headquarters, Toronto
We are living in a constantly connected world, with a seemingly never-ending flow of information coming at us. The inability to disconnect is causing a dramatic increase in stress levels among workers today, with 70% reporting that they feel overwhelmed daily. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that “technostress,” the stress of constantly being on and overwhelmed by technology, will be one of the biggest health issues in the coming decade. By WHO estimates, technostress will cost businesses more than $300 million in that timeframe.
Stressed Out
In a workforce study, global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson found that the number one lifestyle risk impacting the workforce today is stress — yet stress is the factor to which we pay the least attention. The International WELL Building Institute’s core concepts of health include a “Mind” category that strives to “optimize cognitive and emotional health through design, technology and treatment strategies.” Recommendations include views to the outdoors, provision of high ceilings, and features that spark “human delight.”
Recent studies have shown that mindfulness can have a significant impact on productivity, as discussed in a Harvard Business Review article. A 15-minute mindfulness meditation on divergent thinking performance among 92 engineering students at Stanford University showed that a single meditation can improve idea generation, the authors noted.
A chemical plant based in Detroit found that after just three years of implementing meditation:
  • Productivity soared 120%
  • Profits rose by 52%
  • Absenteeism dropped by 70%
The body of evidence showing that meditation can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety — in addition to relieving pain and insomnia and improve happiness and quality of life — is increasing. New neurological research shows that meditation can increase a brain’s gray matter in several areas, including in the sensory and auditory cortex, as well as in the frontal cortex, which is linked to decision making and working memory. Considering that the average person sees their cortexes shrink as they age, meditation can positively impact that. It also can shrink the amygdala, which is associated with stress, fear, anxiety and aggression, the neuroscientists discovered.
But it is important to note that for some, outside stimulation is welcome, if not needed, to function at a higher level. When some people with ADD/ADHD are engaged in enjoyable activities, for example, evidence shows an increase of production of chemicals in the brain that improve synapse for helping control impulsivity, focus, and lack of concentration. Thus, for some using technology, doodling or being able to move around can have a positive effect. No single solution addresses every need; hence, options and choices are imperative.
Time for a Tech Detox
To help people function at higher levels and feel refreshed, more companies are looking to create ways to enable mindfulness at work and help workers be productive and focused.
Organizations need to provide a variety of work zones tailored to different kinds of tasks and create team-based environments. These spaces should minimize visual clutter, simplify navigation, intensify contrast, and provide plenty of light. Embed areas of reprieve and spaces for refocus in level exchange areas. And the incorporation of natural elements into spaces creates a calming effect.
To specifically address what at times appears as the onslaught of technology and to combat technostress, some companies are looking to provide tech detox, or at a minimum, tech reprieve, by creating quiet zones, tech-free zones, and spaces that promote face-to-face interaction support by analog means. The inability to disconnect and have time to be mindful and destress is imperative to foster health, wellbeing, creativity and productivity.