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What is digital fatigue and how can we battle it?
23 Apr 2021
by Sophie Coombs

We’ve all been glued to our screens recently, haven’t we? Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, most of us were watching too much television, spending too long looking down at our phones and staring at a screen between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Then came the lockdowns, and all of us were encouraged to work, learn and everything-in-between at home. Naturally, this has led to what is being referred to as ‘digital fatigue’... let’s talk about it. 

What is digital fatigue?

It’s pretty self-explanatory - digital fatigue is defined as “the state of exhaustion and disengagement that occurs among people who are required to use numerous digital tools and apps concurrently”.

It’s likely you’re experiencing it, but you didn’t know it had a name. 

What is causing it?

The term ‘digital fatigue’ has been around longer than Coronavirus which means it isn’t a revelation birthed from Covid-19, but there’s no denying that the pandemic hasn’t helped.

Most of us are working from home, with most children also learning from home until last month. We are spending the majority of our day looking at our home computers, with glances at our mobile phones intermittently, then plonking down on our sofas at the end of the day and staring at the TV for a few hours before heading to bed... repeat.

We were guilty of spending too much time tied to tech before we were all thrown into the whirlwind of a global pandemic, but it’s currently worse than ever… we no longer get to pop to the gym, go out to catch up with friends or do the commute - all things we would put our tech down for. We’re now picking up our tech to do such things!

With this dependency on digital, we’re experiencing the physical and mental strains that are leading to fatigue. Our eyes are sore, we’re getting headaches as a result of all that blue light, ‘text neck’ is more prominent than ever and we’re missing out on those ‘human’ aspects - a quick chat over a coffee in between meetings, rather than zooming straight from one video call to another (pun very much intended) - which can lead to disengagement and just not wanting to interact. 

How can we battle it?

With the Government’s current roadmap in place, we hope that soon we will find it easier to take some time away from technology and enjoy time with friends and loved ones face-to-face again, or do whatever it is that brings happiness (that doesn’t include a screen!). 

For now, it’s key that you dedicate a certain amount of time each day to giving yourself a digital break. In March, the J&PR team set themselves the techtimeout10 challenge - 10 days of tech-free activities - and it made a huge difference. techtimeout is a great organisation so if you’re looking for tips and making long-term changes to your relationship with technology, we’d recommend you give it a look. 

Here are some other ideas to battle digital fatigue:

  • Have a virtual commute to help switch on and off before and after work
  • Challenge yourself to a techtimeout - put your devices away and do something else!
  • Do at least one thing that benefits your physical and mental wellbeing every day. This will differ for everyone, from yoga to organising to spending time outside.
  • Reach out! If you’re struggling with fatigue and working remotely, reach out to someone you trust. Your employer may be willing to give you a longer lunch or more frequent screen breaks if you’re happy to make up the hours. It’s so important to speak to somebody if you’re struggling. 
How about the team at J&PR?

We think everyone has experienced digital fatigue at least once in the past year - whether you’re online learning, working remotely or having Zooms catch-ups instead of dinner. The team at J&PR is no different and we’ve been learning to deal with digital fatigue, especially over the last 12 months when we’ve been missing out on those fabulous office natters and face-to-face client meetings!

Here’s what we do here at J&PR to battle digital fatigue:

“I move to pen and paper - usually doing a manual to do list or having a traditional cloud-style brainstorm on a big piece of paper.

“It breaks my staring at the screen and also kickstarts my creative juices!”

- Rhea

“Fresh air is my answer. 

“When we were commuting to the office and going out to meetings and networking events, we’d enjoy the fresh air before getting in the car, after getting out at our destination and perhaps enjoyed a coffee or lunch outside before the next meeting. 

“The travel time forced us into leaving gaps in the diary between meetings but the home office environments have seen workers book back-to-back conference calls - maybe just a few minutes’ gap for a fresh coffee or a toilet break!

“I found myself struggling to concentrate and offer my usual fun, bubbly personality so re-trained myself to leave adequate breaks between meetings - time for a quick walk or at least to stand outside for 15 minutes to take in that all-important fresh air. 

“It took lots of willpower but with the techtimeout challenge also helping me to re-train my mind, I now enjoy regular fresh air throughout the day.”

- Kirsty

“I always find music helps me to refresh my brain. Move away from the computer, and if you are working from home, put on some music in another room. Ideally a good old-fashioned CD or record - the physical aspect of actually putting on a record or CD helps to disconnect you from whatever you were doing before.

“But even just asking Alexa to play your favourite song while you kick back in your favourite chair and close your eyes should give you a good three-minute break (or longer if your favourite song happens to be Bohemian Rhapsody or Stairway To Heaven…).”

- Simon

“I make sure I get enough sleep - I’m talking 9 or 10 hours!! I’m very prone to headaches (thanks to rubbish eyes and grinding my teeth) and when I’m feeling fatigued I can get grouchy... a good sleep in a pitch-black room always helps me feel refreshed, alert and better physically and mentally.” 

- Sophie

“I have to wear blue light blockers/glasses after staring at a screen for too long otherwise I get sore eyes and headaches. 

“I also tend to ‘switch off’ when talking to friends and family after spending an entire day online.”

- Freya

“Run, run, run!

“At school, I was always the girl trying to get out of PE lessons. I forgot my PE bag, had a headache or my little toe hurt too much.

“Now, many years later, I am always itching to get outside for a run and will go out in nearly all weathers! Going for a run completely refreshes my mind and re-energises me before I need to get back to the computer or phone. It’s a brilliant way to exercise as all you need is a pair of trainers and you're ready to go straight from your front door.”

- Becci

“For me, it’s important not to get consumed by a situation that only worsens the longer you stick with it. We all want to finish off what we are doing but often it’s just a good idea to get away from it.

“Take regular breaks, get up and have a walk around outside, or even jump in the car and have a short drive around - locally, of course - taking in some of the wonderful scenery we have on our doorstep. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better and fit and raring to go again on the laptop!”

- Tony

“Get away from the screen for a while.

“I walk, run, knit… nothing particular or very interesting but just to stop and sometimes personally leave my devices in another room!”

- Dani

Self care is the best care

We hope you’ve found these tips and our experiences helpful, now go and give yourself a digital break!