Petra Velzeboer is a psychotherapist, CEO of mental health consultancy PVL and author of new book Begin With You

Working from home can be highly convenient, writes Petra Velzeboer, psychotherapist and author.

Avoiding expensive commutes and the time it takes to get somewhere, we have everything we need right where we are so why change things? Well, convenience is not always the same as what’s good for us and we’re seeing more and more remote workers today feeling the strain of an always-on culture which is affecting their mental and physical health.

Don’t get me wrong. Technology can work for us in profound ways if we are intentional about our lifestyles and how to make work work for us – this includes the rise in digital nomads working from anywhere, replacing the commute with healthy practices to set up the day and creating boundaries around flexible working hours that enable us to invest in our family and other interests.

Are we addicted to tech?

The reality in the majority of cases however, even with this wonderful possibility in front of us, is that we’re simply addicted to the technology rush, our post-pandemic survival brain in a permanent state of urgency, meaning we are glued to our screens at work and at play which negatively impacts our wellbeing. A combination of our survival state and the addictive nature of social tools (see Netflix’s documentary The Social Dilemma for insight) means we are more lonely than ever even though we are more connected and chasing short-term dopamine hits rather than real connection.

Are we losing the art of conversation?

I’m also noticing how people are out of practice in the art of connection through conversation. We’ve become more transactional in our communication, naming efficiency in a hybrid world, when really many of us are simply out of practice and nervous about getting it wrong – so we stick to safe topics (the state of the world, weekend plans and work lists) rather than really see the person in front of us and understand that we all have a story – and that teams, families and relationships all work better when some effort and space is created for real connection.

So, what can we do about the negative impacts of technology and thereby boost our focus and well-being through true connection and that feeling of being seen?

Firstly, it’s time to get radically honest with yourself about your habits. 

Do you use technology or does it use you?  Do you feel phantom phone sensations when away from your phone? Do you find yourself scrolling through things that make you less efficient instead of more? Do you have notifications for everything set to on – emails, news, group messages – all of which trigger your nervous system to check if you are safe?

Secondly, check your working practices. 

Are your working hours creeping up just because your laptop is next to your bed or you can work from your phone? Are the things you work on really urgent and essential to your business or is it simply a habit that’s making you spend your golden morning hour on tasks rather than setting yourself up for the day?

Finally, are you proactively connecting with people on a deeper level? 

We are out of the habit of connection and our wellbeing is taking a hit. This doesn’t mean just spending time around people – we can definitely feel alone in a crowd. Instead, it means being brave enough to take the first step in asking a deeper question, picking up the phone to call someone or telling someone what you appreciate about them.

Practise putting yourself out there!

People think being brave only means talking about your story or what’s going wrong in your life, of course, that vulnerability is important and we need people in our life who will have our back and hear us out without trying to fix things – but it also takes bravery to talk about what’s going well, to tell someone we’re proud of them, to be grateful for the world around us and to truly listen to what is going on for someone else. Practising putting ourselves out there in this way, as well as being real about how we’re feeling, are the real building blocks of connection to counter what is often slipping away through the negatives of addictive technology.

Technology isn’t the enemy

As stated earlier, technology isn’t the enemy, it’s how many of us have gotten lazy in putting ourselves out there so think about how you can utilise technology to boost well-being and performance. Calling someone on the phone (old-school), putting your camera on in a video call and disrupting your usual flow of conversation, texting someone what they mean to you and creating boundaries that increase efficiency and focus and hey, if you’re working at home why not creatively use your privilege as an opportunity to really live your best life rather than isolate and make life smaller.

About the author

Petra Velzeboer is a psychotherapist, CEO of mental health consultancy PVL and author of the new book Begin With You.