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Sofie Sandell
Sofie Sandell 29 September 2015
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Digital Stress And Opening Up For A Discussion About It

I've been to a number of meetings about digital stress and how to prevent it from happening in the first place. Sounds easy, right?

In the last week I’ve been to a number of meetings about digital stress and how to prevent it from happening in the first place. Sounds easy, right?



I’ve been talking to several people about what digital stress means to them and have received different answers. A tech-focused London entrepreneur said it has nothing to with anything digital, it’s all to do with poor leadership behaviour. He has a point there.


A user experience designer, who was clearly digitally savvy, told me that it’s due to poor design and that digital systems are not connected properly and that freaks people out. She also made a good point.


The discussion I learnt the most about digital stress from last week was with a leadership coach who told me that by avoiding talking about the problem of digital stress we are only making it bigger. Many managers never take the time to talk about what makes us feel stressed at work. If you never point out the weaknesses it’s hard to do anything about them.


To describe what makes us stressed isn’t easy, there is not a simple answer. It’s a problem with many different faces, and just because it’s complex we should not avoid talking about it.


A survey done by CIO in Sweden says that people value a good IT system more than anything else in their workplace (translate the survey with Google translate). That’s a point that’s clearly connected to digital stress.

What makes people stressed is different for everyone. Some people are resilient. Some are more vulnerable. Some are productive and will do what they are told to do. Some are very creative and only sometimes do what they are told. Some have the ability to set up clear boundaries that people respect. Others have no idea that saying no is even a possibility. We are all different and during a lifelong career there are many events that will affect us.


When we are pushing hard and working hard one thing we tend to forget is to think about the big questions. Questions such as what are my values and what do I stand for and is this what I want to spend (a lot of!) my time doing?


If an organisation is collectively in a state of mind where it never thinks about or discusses the big questions the organisation will be dysfunctional in one way or another. Stress is often planted in the roots of an organisation and a tree with bad roots will become weak when growing taller.


Many organisations are stuck with management behaviour that only talk about efficiency, productivity and next three months profit. In the digital world where all knowledge is connected in a collaborative way you need to start talking about knowledge management and collaboration.


One of the traits that I’ve noticed work really well when working in collaboration with others is kindness. It feels as if we have forgotten that being kind is a strength. Maybe kindness is confused with ’being nice’, as in being naive and acting as the office slave doing other people’s job.


Good listeners are kind and people who are good at seeing what their fellow team members need are kind. In a stressful workplace the people who are kind to others can be the people keeping the team together.


Being mentally squeezed by bad management practices that are causing stress isn’t sustainable, and we need to find room to talk about and discuss what kind of behaviour we appreciate in the workplace.


What we want: Discussions that result in decisions for the future and that involve all kinds of human beings and their different needs. These discussions should be conducted in a respectful way and on a regular basis in meetings where everyone listens.


The opposite (and something that is far too common) are discussions where people talk about the past and that only include some kind of people. These discussions are often conducted in a disrespectful way and on a totally irregular basis.

 

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