Is techno-despair disrupting your workplace?
"The world is in midst of an emotional meltdown," according to Dr. Judith Orloff, author of The New York Times' bestseller "Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life."
Citing recent reports that levels of anxiety, insomnia and stress are on the rise among workers worldwide, Dr. Orloff told me in a recent phone interview that she believes we can attribute many of these troubles to technology. People are so overwhelmed with the variety and quantity of technology available today, says the assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, that they're suffering from "techno-despair."
Techno-despair refers to the feelings of depression, insomnia and anxiety that stem from an ever-increasing reliance on technology. While Dr. Orloff doesn't deny that technology offers a lot of benefits -- from enabling us to "catch up with 100 friends on Facebook" instantly to providing us real-time news and information -- it can also lead to many problems when that technology breaks down (or simply doesn't work the way we expect it to).
"We've become addicted to instant gratification," Dr. Orloff says. And it is this addiction that leaves us even more vulnerable to feelings of impatience, anxiety, nervousness or depression when we can't get what we want, right when we want it. Not only does research increasingly suggest that reliance on technology can affect our mental health, but Dr. Orloff has also witnessed it firsthand -- especially in the workplace. "I've seen people go into panic attacks because files disappear, and they don't know how to deal with it," she says.
Fortunately, Dr. Orloff says there is an antidote to this techno-despair: patience. Patience is the key to increased satisfaction, higher productivity and lower stress at work. Of course, patience comes in short supply these days and, like any other workplace skill, must be learned and practiced. Dr. Orloff was kind enough to provide the following tips, adapted from "Emotional Intelligence," her latest book, to help employers and employees learn patience and fight this new workplace phenomenon.
7 Ways to Fight Techno-Despair at Work
Adapted from the book "Emotional Freedom"
- Find opportunity in disappointment. Are you wanting that report ... yesterday? Are you frustrated by the seeming ineptitude of a co-worker who can't learn the new software? Ask yourself, "How does this setback help me?" Disappointments viewed through this lens cultivate patience, leading to unexpected rewards.
- Know your tech tolerance. Machines, like people, have energy -- and some people are more sensitive to tech energy than others. If you notice that you get easily stressed out by the buzz of computers, or your email alert, or even just the ringing of a phone, you may be highly sensitive. Drink water, go outside in the fresh air and take a break.
- Laugh it off. Injecting levity into a frustrating workplace situation is the quickest way to counteract impatience and techno-despair. If there are tech glitches in your big sales presentation, make a joke or put a humorous spin on it. Instantly, you'll feel less negative.
- Note what's working. When we're impatient, we tend to focus on the negative -- the employee viewing YouTube instead of working, the unread emails overloading our inbox. Changing your attitude changes your mood. If you feel negativity creeping in, focus on something positive -- something that's going really well at work.
- Go with it -- temporarily. Did your computer crash right in the middle of composing a report -- and you didn't save it? Like a long line at the store, sometimes you just have to go with it. Accept that there's nothing you can do about it this time around. Watch what happens to your stress level when you do.
- Take a micro view. One reason we get impatient and frustrated at work is because we're trying to grasp too many pieces of information at once -- projects, deadlines, to-do lists, meetings, strategies, policies, emails, tweets, texts, and so on. Try focusing on one specific issue at a time, say, getting the most out of this morning's meeting, or catching up on five emails.
- Stop pushing. Sometimes we're so impatient to finish a project that we multitask to save time, get overwhelmed, and end up finishing the job poorly -- or not at all. Try this: Stop pushing yourself for one day. Relax into your job. The patient tortoise always beats the frantic hare.
Judith Orloff, MD is the author of the New York Times' bestseller Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life and the international bestseller Second Sight.
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