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 · By Dr. Mike Sokol

Health in Action: Work/Life Balance in the Digital Age

This post was authored by Dr. Mike Sokol, Vice President of Employee Wellness at Sanofi US.

In recognition of Employee Health & Fitness Month, I wanted to share some thoughts on the meaning and importance of work/life balance in today’s digital world.

Finding a healthy work/life balance can be a challenge for those in the workforce. But today, it’s proving to be even more difficult than ever since digital technology has enabled us to be connected at all times. With laptops, tablets, smartphones and social media platforms, it’s increasingly easy for colleagues, friends and family members to reach each other instantly. But what does this constant connectivity really mean for our work, our personal lives and our overall well-being?

On one hand, digital technology offers employees greater flexibility, which may improve work/life balance and increase a company’s overall effectiveness. Depending on their employer’s guidelines, many employees today have the ability to work from nearly anywhere at any time and from any device, potentially giving them the freedom to define their own schedules. Digital technology may also enhance our social lives by making it easier to stay in touch – something that’s important in its own right, as strong social relationships have been linked to health and well-being.

On the other hand, in-person interaction is also important for social bonding. And today’s “wired” world can make some employees feel the need to be responsive 24/7, which may lead to stress. In fact, a 2014 Gallup study found that U.S. employees who work remotely outside of normal business hours are more likely to experience a substantial amount of stress on any given day. These employees might also miss out on essential downtime that our brains need to refresh. There has also been plenty of news about potential health risks associated with technology. For example, research has suggested that looking down at a mobile device can strain your neck – something that’s actually now being referred to as “text neck.”

Image Source: Dr. Kenneth Hansraj/Surgical Technology International

Image Source: Dr. Kenneth Hansraj/Surgical Technology International

All things considered, while there are both pros and cons, it’s undeniable that the rise of digital technology is changing the concept of work/life balance and how we achieve it in our daily lives. It’s also clear that striking a balance between our careers and personal lives is more important than ever for achieving optimal health and productivity.

In my perspective, though, the fundamentals of work/life balance remain the same. Prioritize. Set and communicate your boundaries. Track your time. Discuss and manage expectations with your employer. Unplug every now and then! And most importantly, find what works best for you. At the end of the day – whenever that may be – work/life balance means different things to different people.

What does work/life balance in the digital age mean to you? Tell us in the comments below.

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