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Feeling overwhelmed by notifications? Mindfulness could help

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have identified a way to minimise the harmful effects of digital hyperconnectivity at work

Published: Feb 27, 2024 04:46:58 PM IST
Updated: Feb 27, 2024 04:52:50 PM IST

Feeling overwhelmed by notifications? Mindfulness could help Research suggests that employees who are more mindful in the digital workplace are better protected against stress, anxiety and overload. Image: Shutterstock

From emails to instant messages, workers can sometimes find themselves drowning in an avalanche of notifications, which can take their toll on concentration and increase stress levels. Luckily, researchers at the University of Nottingham have identified a way to minimize the harmful effects of digital hyperconnectivity at work.

And here, the key could be mindfulness. This concept designates a state of consciousness characterized by focusing your attention on the present moment, without judgment and with a benevolent acceptance of your thoughts, emotions and feelings. For a long time, it was confined to the fields of spirituality and personal development, before entering the realms of clinical psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience.

A UK research team led by Elizabeth Marsh, a doctoral student at the University of Nottingham, set out to determine the benefits of mindfulness on work-related stress generated by the hyperconnectivity of the digital world. To do this, they surveyed 142 employees about their experience of digital work. In particular, they were asked how they felt about the extensive use of digital tools such as email, instant messaging and videoconferencing, and about the levels of stress and anxiety they felt about not being online or connected all the time. This fear of missing out is known in everyday language as FOMO.

Also read: JOMO: Joy of missing out is all about embracing downtime

Rethinking your sense of urgency

The academics found that employees practicing mindfulness seemed more immune to the harmful effects of hyperconnectivity than their colleagues who were less mindful. They were less likely to suffer from stress and anxiety, as well as FOMO. "Overall, more mindful employees appear to experience less adverse effects in the digital workplace and have better well-being outcomes," the researchers write in their paper, published in the journal, PLOS One.

So there's good reason to believe that mindfulness promotes emotional regulation and therefore professional well-being. This could be because the practice encourages people to pay close attention to the present moment, and thus to rethink the reality of their priorities. Endless streams of notifications can lead to a false sense of urgency. You might feel obliged to respond as quickly as possible to every email or digital solicitation to show your responsiveness. But our brains react badly to this self-inflicted pressure. It's difficult for it to switch from one task to another at the snap of a finger, which considerably increases the risk of mental overload.

To get out of this vicious circle, it's important to rethink your digital habits and distance yourself from notifications. People who are easily overwhelmed are well advised to make to-do lists and set up offline time slots. This will enable them to regain control of their working time and become more efficient. And, according to the research, getting to grips with mindfulness could be no bad thing either.

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