A version of this was originally published in: https://m360.sim.edu.sg/article/Pages/Cyber-Wellness-as-A-Critical-Aspect-of-Workplace-Wellness.aspx
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Jan 10, 2022
COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on mental and emotional health and well-being, which has become one of the key fallouts of the pandemic. Persistent strains and stresses can arise from the incorrect, uncritical, or prolonged use of digital devices, including in our professional lives. It is for this reason that cyber-wellness—the health, happiness, prosperity, and fulfilment of people as they use the Internet—should be included as a key component of workplace wellness
The Importance of Cyber-Wellness in the Hybrid or Remote Workplace
Increasingly, wellness and well-being have come into the forefront of national discourse in Singapore, and indeed, around the world due to Covid-19. Paradoxically, while well-being has taken a hit, the pandemic has also brought the issue to the forefront of public consciousness. In fact, in his address to the nation on October 9 2021, PM Lee Hsien Loong noted the “psychological and emotional strain, and mental fatigue” that Covid-19 had brought in its wake. 2021 witnessed the inauguration of a slew of mental health initiatives within the community, workplace and in schools, much to the delight of wellbeing professionals, who have been arguing for the need to bring this issue into the mainstream.
Workplace wellness is one area that is receiving greater interest, given the intertwining of work and personal life, and persistent stresses and strains due to Covid, which, if left unattended, can have negative impacts on one’s physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. One of these strains comes from the continuous usage of digital devices, which, if used incorrectly or uncritically, can have an adverse impact on health and well-being. In 2020 and 2021, this was visible in the blurring of personal and professional boundaries due to extended Work From Home (WFH) or remote work arrangements. There are many wellness-related issues that arise from the extended role of the internet and digital technologies in our working lives, and managers and employers must be aware of these strains and have policies and strategies in place to proactively manage and mitigate these issues. Health and safety in the workplace has become a key aspect of workplace wellness. With some form of remote or hybrid work becoming the norm, workplace wellness needs to expand to include cyber-well-being.
What is Cyber-Wellness?
Simply put, cyber-wellness refers to the health, happiness, prosperity, and fulfilment of people as they use the internet.
In Singapore, cyber-wellness has been part of the Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) in schools, which has received increased emphasis from 2021. However, this is an aspect that needs more attention in the workplace and in our private lives. Cyber-wellness is linked to cybersafety, which refers to an emphasis on people versus cybersecurity, which usually refers to the safety of information and devices. Cyber-wellness should include both aspects, with the emphasis on the health and hygiene of devices as well as the people that use them. In the workplace, therefore, cybersecurity and cyber-safety knowledge and awareness-raising should go hand-in-hand, and it must include the wellness element. After all, isn’t a company’s greatest asset its people?
One of the first steps is to identify dangers on the Internet, and to categorise how they are harmful to our health and well-being: in other words, to identify what are the physical, mental, emotional, and financial cyber-threats. Through training, talks, and other awareness-generating activities, employees can learn to identify dangers within and across categories, and thereafter, learn how to better safeguard themselves. You may be surprised to know that these protective mechanisms do not require complex technologies or theories, but simple hacks, skills and knowledge, which if applied regularly, can keep you, your family, and your employees/co-workers safer, healthier, and happier online.
In addition to regular awareness-raising exercises on cybersafety and cyber-wellness, a workplace wellness programme should incorporate reflection about one’s roles and responsibilities in relation to new technologies in the workplace. As a starting point I would recommend an understanding of your online behaviours and learning how to communicate respectfully; prioritising cyber-hygiene and upgrading your cybersecurity knowledge; and maintaining a positive balance between online and offline time and activities.
While safe management measures (SMMs) won’t last forever, WFH or at least some form of flexible/remote working will continue into the foreseeable future. Companies must ensure that well-being is a priority, and that cyber-wellness awareness and activities are included as part of workplace well-being initiatives.
If you are interested in making cyber-wellness and cybersafety a priority at your workplace, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org