So, now that you are working from home, you think you are not exposed to environmental toxicity? Well, we have news for you. There is negativity every where. In your home, perhaps. But, especially on the digital airwaves. May we be more specific? On the internet. And now that you are working at home, you may be more impacted than your in-office peers.
Remote workers are particularly exposed to the pervasive negativity expressed throughout the information super highway.
Remote workers spend 13 hours each day viewing screens
The Hill estimates that remote workers spend approximately 13 hours staring at their computer screens each day! This is 20% more than their in-office colleagues who reported around 10-11 hours of viewing screen time. The continual viewing of the dreaded blue screen of death bad for your vision. A recent survey by All About Vision cited by The Hill revealed that 38% of the respondents reported visiting an eye specialist in the past two years. And of those who visited an optometrist, 45% indicated the need for new prescription glasses. But all is not lost.
When one scrutinizes the data, it can be found that discretionary viewing of computer screens vary by device. For instance,
- 6 hours and 43 minutes spent viewing computer screens,
- 3 hours and 21 minutes scrolling their phones possibly clicking social media posts,
- 2 hours and 54 minutes watching television.
Remote workers likely to be technostressed
Not only can excessive screentime be debilitating, the incessant use of technological devices can cause technostress according to researchers Afifi and Maier’s research published in the Journal of Business Research. Technostress is described as causing a stressful situation because of the continual professional requirement to use technology to transact business and complete job tasks throughout the day.
Additionally, a host of research stipulates that excessive use of digital platforms when working from home and/or using for entertainment and social contexts can produce isolation and cause anxiety (Tarafdar et al., 2019; Cao & Sun, 2018; Karr-Wisniewski & Lu, 2010; Chatzopoulou et al., 2020).
In addition to the physical effects of extended screen time, the stress induced by technological requirements and social isolation and anxiety; remote workers can experience heightened exposure to negativity. More so than their colleagues who report to the traditional office environment.
Remote workers exposed to negative social media
A study reported upon in the Independent found that social media posts emphasizing negative topics get twice as much engagement from users than those focusing on positive topics. The Independent article referred to a Cambridge University research study reviewing over 3 million posts on Facebook and Twitter found that accounts that posted divisive content filled with criticism and mockery of their antagonists received twice as many likes and shares than those that were uplifting and encouraging.
This spiral of negativity repeats itself in a never-ending cycle. Average everyday users can get sucked into a negative vortex driven by media companies and political consultants; whose only end goal is to drive user engagement even higher to drive up advertising revenues.
Common sense tells us that reading, commenting upon, re-posting, liking or disliking negative social media posts can impact one’s attitude. But does it have the ability to do more?
Remote work can lead to anxiety and isolation
Yes. Researchers have always posited the association between social media use and mental illness. Why mention college students in this article? Well, in looking for a baseline, we estimated that remote workers and college students may use computers and technological devices equally.
Studies cited by Harrisburg University indicated the following estimates:
- In 2022, average Americans spend about 7 hours and 4 minutes per day looking at a computer/device screen
- Back in 2014, typical college students use about 8-10 hours of screen time (on their mobile devices) per day
It is believed that college students increased their use of technological devices in the nine years since the study was undertaken.
So getting back to the results of the study. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), however, has been able to find a causal link rather than a mere association. MIT researchers did not use a small sample size to test their hypothesis. Rather, they scrutinized 430,000 responses from a National College Health Assessment, which is a semi-annual questionnaire distributed throughout all college campuses throughout the U.S. to ascertain the mental health and well-being of university students.
Excessive social media use increases depression and anxiety
Alarmingly, the results of the social media habits of college students, increased access to Facebook “led to an increase in severe depression by 7% and anxiety disorder by 20%.” And these findings were not taken lightly. Experts indicated that the severity of the symptoms experienced by college students had about 20% intensity of mental harm as if someone experiences losing their job.
So, remote workers while working from home, working from anywhere should consider that a hazard of remote work is the overexposure to a negative environment, full of toxicity, hate, divisiveness and animosity. Not brought about by your employer, rather occurring organically. Why? Just because the anonymity of the internet can bring out the worst in people.
Spring cleaning 2023 for Remote Workers
Protect yourself from the toxic workplace environment brought about by the internet in these ways:
- Say a positive mantra or prayer to bless your work at the beginning of each work day
- Maintain timing tools to record, track and monitor your data and time usage
- Limit overall screen time
- Reduce the time scrolling on social media sites by half
- Take breaks more often
- Increase physical movement
- Make proportional increases in email, phone and causual in person meetings (weekly lunch gatherings, for instance)
- Shift work schedule to incorporate non-screen reliant tasks periodically
- Use blue light blocking eye wear
- Listen to uplifting, relaxing and/or spiritual music while working from home
- Use nature, wild animal and other calming backscreens
- Click positive stories more often to change algorithim (more positive stories will be directed to your profile) if disengagement is not possible
- Remove at least one Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or other social media icon from your home screen
- Show thankfulness for completing another successful day and ask that your work be blessed