Young And Digital? Please Be Mindful

Dr. Christian M. Arbeiter

According to a 2016 study by Dell and Intel, the generation now entering the workforce expect to have access to the latest technology.

These employees not only assume their employer will provide a notebook, smartphone, and/or tablet PC, but expect that they can use these devices in their private lives, also. It’s also important for them to have the flexibility to combine work and leisure time, and it’s clear that employers must be more open to fulfilling this expectation if they want to retain their employees in the long term.

Undoubtedly, flexibility is an enormous benefit for employees, but there could be a hidden downside lurking underneath. According to a study conducted by Allianz Insurance in Austria, 41% of 18–34-year-olds suffer from acute workplace stress, more than any other age group.

A life without digital connection is no longer imaginable, especially for the younger generation. While non-digital natives (those born prior to digital proliferation) seem to deal more consciously with this, younger ones are less and less able to “switch off.”

They are tempted to use digital devices to do work at home, on the go, wherever. There is little differentiation for them between online and offline times. Continuous digital availability becomes pervasive, a matter of course, which can lead to an unconscious dependency.

Various studies suggest that permanent accessibility, the blurring of private and professional life, as well as the increase in universally perceived labor density, reduce people’s quality of life.

With unhealthy stress and increasing pressure in the workplace, mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, occur more and more often, and are frequently diagnosed in young people. Furthermore, they also lead to physical symptoms such as sleep reduction, concentration problems, absenteeism, and personal dissatisfaction.

Employers need to take action to avoid the risk of their committed young employees suffering early burnout or choosing to leave the workforce.

Many companies are aware of these issues and understand that the consequences are usually recognized when it’s too late. Younger employees are especially keen to prove themselves under competitive pressure and therefore tend not to communicate that they are suffering from workplace stress.

How can this be avoided? For me, the magic word to prevent these consequences is “mindfulness.”

Mindfulness is a special form of conscious attention. (You could call it a kind of meditation.)

Recently, I attended a mindfulness training session. I was very surprised that this topic resonated strongly among many young people (even more than among the distinguished colleagues in attendance). In my opinion, this is a particularly appropriate method to help manage and prevent workplace stress.

John Kabat-Zinn, an American university professor, freed the topic of mindfulness from a religious context and presented it to a broader public in a secular way many years ago.

Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, on your perception (inward), without trying to control or evaluate it. Practicing mindfulness several times a day – using special breathing techniques in different situations – helps to promote balance and space, enabling participants to take control and allowing them to achieve a balanced (working) life.

Many studies prove mindfulness’ positive impact on mind and overall health.

Progressive companies recognize the positive effect of mindfulness, and organizations including Google and SAP already offer mindfulness training to all their employees. Through word of mouth, participants also contribute to the spreading of the positive “spirit” of mindfulness, and this can strengthen a conscious, sustainable corporate culture.

Take your time, try it yourself, be mindful. It may help you to take back control and re-balance your working life, strengthening your ability to diffuse workplace stress.

And spread the word!

For more on creating a more satisfying workplace, see How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization.

The German version of the blog could be found on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: Please note that all statements are my personal views and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the ones of my current employer.

Dr. Christian M. Arbeiter

About Dr. Christian M. Arbeiter

Dr. Christian M. Arbeiter is Human Resources Director at SAP Austria GmbH. He studied law; started his career in banking at Creditanstalt, Vienna and Credit Suisse, Zurich; has been market responsible for portfolio management systems at ChrisData Group, Switzerland; Global Account Manager for Swiss major banks, SAP Switzerland; Sales Manager for the financial services sector, SAP Austria; Project manager for an international large-scale insurance project, SAP Austria; HR Management, SAP Austria. For many years, he has been Director of Human Resources for SAP Austria GmbH, with temporary additional HR responsibilities for the region CEE, Switzerland and SAP organizations in Germany.