US workers spend 11 hours per day staring at a screen according to a recent Nielsen study through CNN. Severe screen addiction is becoming a real problem in the workplace as it affects the same area of the brain as drugs and alcohol. As a result, employees can experience declining health, wellness and work performance.
Neuroimaging research has shown that too much screen time can cause diminished cognitive brain function. This brain power affects an individual’s abilities to plan, prioritize and complete routine tasks. Additionally, a person’s impulse control decreases with constant screen use and more erratic behavior may occur.
People who spend many hours staring into the computer screen have reported blurry vision, frequent headaches and itchy eyes due in large part to the blue light emitted from the screen. This blue light can also suppress melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, our bodies naturally produce to ready itself for sleep. People who overuse screens have reported restless sleep, irregular sleep patterns and insomnia.
Lastly, sitting at work in front of a computer screen for hours on end can lead to higher rates of obesity and an eventual increase in the risk of heart disease.
There are a number of ways employers can reduce the onset of screen addiction in the workplace.
- Promote a distraction-free time when employees can choose a block of time during the day, every day, where they can perform work away from their screens and not be interrupted by notifications, reminders, buzzing, or sounds from their devices.
- Encourage employees to take lunch breaks away from their desks and computers – and even from their personal phones. Designate an area in the workplace as a ‘distraction-free’ zone and create ample space for co-workers to have lunch, talk and rest their eyes.
- Upload apps that can block out distractions and notifications from other sites as well as apps that can alert employees when it is time to take a screen break, even if for only a few minutes.
- Hold device-free meetings. Encourage employees to leave their personal devices at their desks during meetings and even, if possible, any work devices that might be detractors from the meeting.
As part of our wellness programming, we educate employees about the potential health risks of screen time and work with employers to implement ways to reduce employee screen time. Contact us to learn more.
HR Daily Advisor