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Feeling Burnout at Your Job? Mindfulness in the Digital Workplace Could Help, Study Says

Improving mindfulness can potentially help mitigate stress and burnout, according to the findings of a new study that looked at how anxiety and overload can be prevented in the digital workspace.

According to one set of 2023 statistics, around 67% of Americans say they feel more stress and burnout related to work since the end of the coronavirus pandemic, whereas 13% reported that issues with burnout had improved. Overall, close to 83% of Americans also said they were dealing with stress related to their jobs.

Now, a study by a team with the University of Nottingham School of Psychology and Medicine says that being mindful is among the factors that could help mitigate the effects of stress amid the increasing reliance on digital technologies in the workplace.

Mindfulness, as defined according to the research, involves being attentive in the moment and suspending interpreting one’s observations non-judgmentally. According to the team’s findings, based on survey data collected from 142 individuals, employees who practiced mindfulness had less trouble coping with various problems that arise from working digitally.

“The research shows that organizations need to consider how to manage digital workplace hazards alongside other psychosocial and physical risks in the workplace,” said Elvira Perez Vallejos, a Professor of Digital Technology for Mental Health.

“Helping employees foster mindful awareness when working digitally could really help overall well-being,” she added.

Elizabeth Marsh, currently a Ph.D. student with Nottingham University’s School of Psychology, said that increasing levels of digital technology in the work environment prompted her and the team to look at the impact it may be having on people’s health and well-being, as well as what potential strategies for overcoming them might be developed.

During the study, participants who participated in the survey were asked about a variety of negative effects they had encountered during their experience in the workplace, which included stress, anxiety, types of fear, and feeling overloaded.

A notable result of the study indicated that those workers who appeared to be the most “digitally confident” were the ones less likely to feel anxiety. Similarly, those who maintained a higher degree of mindfulness appeared to experience few negative impacts from any of the factors addressed in the survey.

“We found that being mindfully and confidently digital should be considered important elements of living a healthy digital working life in the 21st century,” Marsh said.

In terms of why these factors affect certain workers, Alexa Spence, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychology at Nottingham University, says that technologies like email and other forms of digital communication have been linked to employee stress in the past, particularly “when having to adapt to a constantly evolving digital workplace which can lead to burnout and poorer health.”

The team’s findings were published in the journal PLOS One on February 23, 2024.

Micah Hanks is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of The Debrief. He can be reached by email at micah@thedebrief.org. Follow his work at micahhanks.com and on X: @MicahHanks.