Switching off : how to spend less time in front of your computer screen
Computers are unlike any other work tool. Given that we can use them for so many different things (checking our emails, browsing Facebook, instant messaging or researching any topic), and that on top of that, we spend around eight hours a day at work, it’s not surprising that we have trouble switching off from them. However, our constant sitting in front of a computer screen is bad for both our personal health and the health of our businesses, so we need to get out of our bad habits – and soon. Here’s our advice, which you can apply both in the office or on a training seminar, but especially in a computer room.
Be aware of the risks of excessive screen use
Spending even several hours in front of a computer screen is not recommended. But if you extend this duration (by remaining at your desk during your lunch hour, or by staying late to work on an urgent document), then the risk of physical and emotional stress, alterations in your brain tissue, heart disease – not to mention eye strain – become greater. But being aware of these risks gives you good motivation to combat these conditions that affect the majority of people in the workplace.
Change your (bad) habits
Are you one of those people who can’t seem to tear their eyes away from their screen ? Fortunately, there are lots of tips out there to help you kick this habit. And don’t worry if it takes a while before you start to see results – like any addiction, it takes time to wean yourself off.
Limit yourself to strictly work use
Most employees are tempted to switch to non-work-related matters at some point during the day – after all, it’s easy to try and multitask and have several browser tabs open at once. We end up constantly flitting between work, the latest celebrity gossip, Pinterest recipes, etc. etc. A lot of us fall down this rabbit-hole, but what we don’t realise is that this “multitasking” has a harmful effect on our brain. Having multiple tabs open at the same time overstimulates our brain and tires it out. That’s why we have trouble concentrating, which ends up having repercussions on our productivity. As a result, we actually end up working more slowly and less efficiently.
What’s more, by using the computer for personal use, you’re wasting your employer’s time – and even if lots of companies out there don’t mind their employees doing this, that doesn’t mean that we should abuse the privilege, especially as your employer has every right to suspend or even fire employees for gross misconduct.
One thing at a time
Your working day is full of different tasks : you might have to manage customer orders, call a supplier to complain, prepare a pile of invoices… But whatever you’re doing, concentrate on one task at a time before moving on to the next one, as by trying to do two things at once, you risk :
- Decreasing your productivity by about 40% ;
- Increasing the number of mistakes you make by 50% ;
- Taking twice as long to finish your work. This has been proven in research conducted by the American Psychological Association.
Don’t overuse your computer
Do you need to speak to your colleague in the office down the corridor ? Unless you’re really too busy, go and see them in person instead of sending them an instant message or an e-mail. It’s a good way to stretch your legs and have a well-deserved break.
Take some alone time to help you think
You can boost your concentration by working alone in the break room or a small meeting room (or elsewhere, as long as it’s away from your computer screen).
Learn to take breaks
Allow yourself regular breaks throughout the day. Get up and head to the kitchen or cafeteria (and get a cup of tea or coffee while you’re there). This way, you avoid the physical and psychological side-effects of using the computer for too long. If taking a proper break isn’t possible, look away from your computer at a distant object for a few seconds. Also, don’t neglect your lunch break – it’s important for re-energising yourself and offers the ideal opportunity for getting used to detaching yourself from your computer.
What if it’s more than a bad habit ?
It could be that you can’t tear yourself away from your computer screen because you’re addicted to work or to the internet.
Are you a workaholic ?
To find out if you’re a workaholic, ask yourself the following questions :
- Do you work extra hours even when you don’t have to ?
- Do you have no time to eat, exercise or relax ?
- Do you feel stressed when you’re not working ? Do you get bored when you’re on holiday ?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you may be a workaholic, and you can start to acknowledge your over-dependence on work. You may wish to seek further advice (behavioural therapy is particularly helpful).
Are you addicted to the internet ?
If you spend a bit too much time checking your e-mail, on Twitter or playing games, you may have an internet addiction. To find out, rather than calculating the number of hours that you spend online, ask yourself if you are still able to control your behaviour. If you’re absorbed to the point of neglecting your work, or you no longer find the time to eat or take care of yourself, then you do indeed have an internet addiction. If this sounds like you, you should seek advice from your doctor or consult a therapist.