As technology simplifies and streamlines the working world, employees find themselves adapting to new apps, tools, and services to increase their productivity and improve the outcomes of their work. And this technology has impacted the world positively, bringing businesses and individuals closer together, making it easier for people to communicate, and allowing us to accomplish in mere minutes what once would have taken us hours or days.
But we’ve also become overly reliant on technology in our careers. It’s only natural: almost every job involves the use of computers and tech tools to simplify our work. Which is why we also need to step back and understand how lowering that reliance can be beneficial in our careers.
Here are a few ways you can benefit from a lower reliance on technology in your work life.
Social return to form
Tech can, if we let it, make us antisocial. Social media, email, and instant messaging may seem to bring us closer together, but they’re no true replacement for human contact. Yet, even on the job, we still allow them to act as substitutes for it.
The benefit of a face to face meeting has been lost in a string of emails which, while great for short communication and introductions, don’t have the same impact as a cup of coffee with a client, a sit-down meeting with a manager, and the like.
Decreasing your reliance on technology for communication will help your career in two major ways. First, you’ll be better at judging the reactions and emotions of the people you’re talking to. Emotional responses don’t translate well into digital text on a screen. For you to be able to effectively communicate with a co-worker, potential client, manager, or even current customer, the ability to look them in the eye can be the difference between an ineffective chat and a valuable conversation.
Second, you’ll be better able to take advantage of downtime on the job and get some meaningful respite from work, both for your mind and your body. How many times have you decided to take lunch at your desk while browsing Facebook or continuing to work? Technology makes it easier to just munch on your food while continuing your task or doing something mindless. In the meantime, you’ve lost the opportunity to bond with your teammates in the breakroom or on a walk to the local Chipotle.
A bit of extra time spent with the other members of your team will help you realize that you’re part of a group whose members have their own struggles and successes. You can help them with what they need, and they can help you in return. You can celebrate successes and commiserate on failures together. And you’ll make friends and develop close relationships. All of this adds up to increased job satisfaction, which helps your productivity.
Less stress, fewer headaches
Beyond the fact that staring into a computer screen all day can give you severe eye strain and even some nasty headaches, being constantly connected also has an additional negative impact on your life. It brings your work home with you at all times and prevents you from getting the rest you need.
As a result, you actually end up performing worse in the long run, as the stress of the job piles on without respite. Lowering your reliance on technology, unplugging after the workday is done, and setting out rules for yourself for what you should and shouldn’t respond to after hours will help you reclaim your after work free time.
Do what needs to be done to lower your use of work-related tech after you get out of the office. If emails are a constant stress factor and you feel the need to respond immediately to everything, try disconnecting your work email from your smartphone, closing your work email tab on your browser, or even routing your work emails to various folders based on who the sender is. For example, you can have emails from your boss hit your inbox and notify you, while all others go to a separate folder for later response.
All the apps that you use to keep track of various stats and analytics at work don’t need to be on your phone at home. But if you do use them regularly, a simple trick to stop yourself from constantly checking them is to log yourself out of each app and prevent them from automatically logging you in. It’s a tiny step that will turn off notifications and require you to log in - and that will become extra effort you might not want to take.
The end result will be a set of boundaries between your work life and your home life, giving you a clear distinction between the two and allowing you to keep your relaxation time just that - relaxing.
Focus, focus, focus
While it may sound counterintuitive considering the benefits to your efficiency and speed at work, overuse of technology can actually hurt your focus on the job. We all say we love technology because it gives us the ability to multitask effectively. Yet multitasking has been taken to task by researchers, and the result is damning: it results in more errors and lower productivity.
If you rely on technology for the sake of multitasking or switching between tasks at a rapid pace, you might be negatively impacting the results of your work. By instead focusing on a single task at hand, you can get more done and with higher quality than if you were constantly hopping between one task and the next.
So instead of using various tech tools at once to enable your multitasking, stick to one tool or one set of tools that will enable you to put 100% focus into a single task. There are simple apps to help you disconnect from the rest of your tech arsenal. Apps like Focus and Cold Turkey will allow you to block various websites and programs on your computer, giving you the power to focus on only the ones you need at any given time.
So if you find yourself overly attached to technology at work, take stock of how you’re actually benefiting from that reliance. Because there may be great benefits in the short term, but you could also be hurting yourself in the long term. If you believe this is the case, take the steps necessary to unplug at least a part of your tech arsenal. Your career will benefit from it.