How Digital Realities at Work Can Enhance Your Wellbeing

In a recent survey, the Pew Research center found that our digital realities are more optimistic than one might think. 47% of respondents believe technology helps their wellbeing. Meanwhile, 32% of respondents say their wellbeing is harmed because of their digital lives. We find the truth somewhere in the middle. Too much of a good thing leads to less than desirable outcomes. Too little of something is a missed opportunity. 


While we focus on the ires against technology, the benefits of technology on our wellbeing are more compelling. What we find between the two extremes is worthy of understanding and maximizing its benefits on living a life well-lived.


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Digital Realities Are Not So Bad

As humans, we seek out people and build relationships with them. It is, after all, what helped us survive when we all were furry. The need to build relationships to survive has evolved over thousands of years. Today we do so to experience belonging, connection, and love. Meaningful relationships improve our wellbeing. At work, those meaningful relationships can be one-to-one or team-based. Ultimately, when we enjoy working alongside our colleagues our lives improve and become more significant. We aren’t meant to feel alone, isolated, or ignored.


Meaningful relationships improve our wellbeing.


Today, technology helps us expand our relational ties by using social media, email, and the fuel that makes this possible, the internet. This is how our digital realities can be improved–via relationships forged by technology.


Digital Realities Positively Influencing Our Wellbeing

In my book, Work Tribes, I examine why technology can positively influence the digital lives we lead. A musty belief that many of us uphold is our digital interactions can’t possibly lead to quality relationships. This is simply not true.


Researcher Alvaro Pascual-Leone from Harvard Medical School, says the answer to why can be found in our brains. Our brains are in a perpetual state of plasticity. Says the professor, “Plasticity is an intrinsic property of the human brain and represents evolution’s invention to enable the nervous system to escape the restrictions of its own genome and thus adapt to environmental pressures, physiologic changes, and experiences.”


These findings shed important light on how our digital realities improve our wellbeing. The Pew Research I referenced earlier found these benefits:

  • Establishing a connection: We find our common interests by digitally meeting people on websites, chats, social media accounts. In short, shared interests help us discover people who are interested in the same things as ourselves.
  • Activism: Shared political and social issues can be examined together by connecting with others online.
  • Contentment: “Digital life empowers people to improve, advance, or reinvent their lives, allowing them to self-actualize, meet soul mates and make a difference in the world,” explains Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie.


In short, technology can bring people from around the world together. The coming together is done so over shared interests, passions, and even compelling aspirations like making the world a more just place.


Digital Realities, Wellbeing, and the Workplace

The physiological influence technology has on us isn’t just a personal phenomenon. It is also a professional one. Technologies that bring teams together also benefit from what professor Alvaro Pascual-Leone discovered. 


When we collaborate virtually with our colleagues, we build connections. Even activism can be a work-related experience. Think about how groups of employees form teams over social issues: diversity, equity, and inclusion teams; workgroups formed to improve gender equality in the workplace, for example. 


[block quote] When we collaborate virtually with our colleagues, we build connections.


Finding one’s place at work or experiencing belonging leads to internal contentment and can also be satisfying and fulfilling. These days when the majority of employees are working from home, these groups meet via technology.


High-Quality Relationships and Wellbeing at Work

Wellbeing has many elements to it: financial wellbeing, career wellbeing, social wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and community wellbeing. A broader understanding of what makes us feel good reveals many more paths to a life well-lived. 


Yes, technology is but one input into our journeys to a meaningful life. It isn’t, however, the evil undermining what is right in society today. Like all things, there are upsides and downsides. Where you focus makes the most significant impact.


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About the Author

Shawn Murphy
Director of Organizational Behavior, Bluescape
Shawn is our Director of Organizational Behavior and Workplace Trends. His second book, Work Tribes is out now. Shawn's first book, The Optimistic Workplace is out now. Inc. has listed him twice as one of the top leadership speakers in America.

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