Wellness Q&A: “It’s a common myth that a more connected employee is a more productive one”

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 10 Aug 2016

Experts say round-the-clock working seriously damages health – which is why it’s time to switch off

France could vote to make it illegal to respond to work emails at weekends, while employees in the GCC are making an increased number of health insurance claims, suggesting they are overly stressed and working too much, say some experts. People Management spoke to two Middle East-based wellness practitioners about the importance of ‘switching off’ from work, which might mean something as simple as staying away from mobile devices.
Do you see a culture of being available around the clock for work calls and emails?
 
Dr Hisham Al Omran, CEO at MySaudiWellness: “Most people are on their mobile phones and laptops at all hours of the day, and this is especially common in the GCC because many people in this region are quite young and grew up with technology, so they see it as a part of their lives. A common comment I hear is that people don’t just ‘go’ online, but actually ‘live’ online.”
 
Tim Garrett, owner of Dubai-based Corporate Wellness Co: “It really depends on the organisation, although I feel there is extra pressure on people working here because they are often dealing with the UK, Europe and Asia and their differing time zones.”
 
What does the stress of being constantly connected to work do to the body and mind?
 
Dr Hisham: “There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that people feel less happy or satisfied with their lives, as well as complaining of physical ailments attributed to stress. Complaints such as headaches, stomach ache, indigestion, body aches and many more – despite the fact most people would say they are better off than they were in the past.”
 
Garrett: “I love the way the internet has created a flat world with limitless possibilities, however there are some drawbacks. The sympathetic nervous system is always activated, exacerbated by the EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) from mobile phones. An over-stimulated sympathetic nervous system is a root cause of hormone imbalance, fatigue, reduced career performance and a poor quality of life. The adrenals and thyroid become fatigued and it cascades throughout the body.”
 
If employees are worried about disconnecting, what advice would you give them?
 
Dr Hisham: “We notice employees feel worried about disconnecting because they are concerned about their jobs. So we spend time with HR managers to understand the culture of the organisation and to help educate managers about the detrimental effect of continuous connectivity. It’s a common myth that a more connected employee is a more productive one. There is now quite interesting evidence that this is not the case.”
 
Garrett: “I recommend turning mobile phones and wireless routers off at night, and keeping your phone away from your head – this can’t be emphasised enough, because the low level radiation is harmful to your cells and particularly their communication ability, and also damages chromosomes. Try to exercise for five to 10 minutes or more a day and do something that just makes you focus on one thing only, which isn’t work. Great examples would be sunbathing (extra vitamin D, pregnenolone, and progesterone production), reading an inspiring or funny book, yoga and tai chi.”