By Bob Puglisi
We may not be able to escape screen time these days, but there are simple measures we can all take to avoid feeling burnout.
Questions from my 17-year-old son are no less frequent today than they were when he was five. As a parent, I’ve always felt prepared to show him the ropes…about anything. That is, until March 2020.
The pandemic hit with little warning and absolutely no road map. As a managed health care professional for 26 years, a part-time adjunct history professor, and a dad of two high school children, I certainly had my hands full.
It’s fair to say we had been living in a digital world well before the pandemic, but the difference was, that before it was a choice. In the blink of an eye my home became my office, my children’s school and the classroom from which I would teach via video streaming.
Minimizing screen-time stress
Staring at a computer screen all day long can not only cause physical effects like blurred vision and neck and shoulder pain, but there can be mental impacts too. The constant influx of information online can cause us to feel burnt out and overwhelmed. It’s also stressful to be “camera ready” all day long. Aside from your personal appearance, you need to be aware of your background and do your best to limit any distractions. How many times have you tried to speak while on mute?
My experience this past year has taught me a few things about how to help myself, and others, cope in a virtual world:
- Express gratitude. Students and professionals are likely making sacrifices “behind the camera” of which a teacher, a presenter, or a colleague may not be readily aware. I always find it helpful to comment on the environment or circumstances—a nice day, an early or after-hours meeting, a final class just before spring break—as a way of expressing thanks to my audience for attending and blocking out the many distractions of a home workspace.
- Simplify instruction. If in the position to have to teach or explain concepts through video, don’t overcomplicate things. Remember that students and many adult learners are managing multiple distractions that they would otherwise not have in a classroom or a conference room. Don’t be fooled by a peaceful virtual background! Be sure to ask questions to reinforce material or next steps.
- Use the chat. Don’t forget to invite questions or comments by using the chat feature. I’ve found that promoting real-time interaction in virtual meetings encourages students and colleagues to stay engaged. I’ve even seen otherwise shy students really shine when relieved of the pressure of having to speak or express uncertainty about a topic or issue in front of their classmates. Let’s embrace new avenues of expression even if we’ve only stumbled onto them by way of transitioning to a virtual world.
- Promote the power of unplugging. It can be hard to step away from our computers, especially now that our homes are serving as our offices and classrooms too. Consider encouraging “no meeting” days among your teams to help them reenergize. You may also consider a “tech-free hour” in the evening when the whole family unplugs and takes a walk. Not only will it give your eyes a much-needed rest, it will help clear your mind and give you a chance to spend quality time together.
I hope you find these tips helpful as we continue to navigate life through our screens.
Bob Puglisi is Director of Provider Network Services for AmeriHealth New Jersey.