two men next to each other, both staring at phones
PHOTO: Matthew G

We face increased competition for our attention at home and in the workplace, and this is cause for concern. Increased use of addictive technology makes it hard for us to focus for extended periods of time. While this hardly news, what is new is that industry insiders are, for the first time, starting to take action to mitigate these effects.

Fighting FOMO and Stress at Home

At home, the competition for our attention manifests itself in anxiety associated with the fear of missing out (FOMO), the impairment of social relationships, increased levels of stress and the loss of sleep, and even in a decline in the democratic nature of society. 

The latest revelation about a data leak that exposed 50 million Facebook profiles has certainly not helped calm the waters. Besides the obvious security concerns, the Facebook profiles appear to have been exploited to target U.S. voters with fake news during the latest presidential election, possibly helping to sway the election outcome. And if that weren’t enough, an ex-Facebook insider says this case was only one of many, to which Facebook routinely turned a blind eye.  

To deal with some of the downsides associated with consumer tech, a handful of Silicon Valley insiders recently launched the Center for Humane Technology, a consortium of “former tech insiders and CEOs who intimately understand the culture, business incentives, design techniques, and organizational structures driving how technology hijacks our minds.”  

These folks are intent on righting the wrongs they (inadvertently) imposed on us by making mobile phones and social apps pervasive and addictive.

Related Article: Is Your Time Online Time Well Spent?

Fighting Workplace Distractions

In the workplace, increased use of mobile devices and next generation collaboration tools is also having a negative effect, albeit in a different way than in the consumer world. In the workplace, tech addiction is not a problem of addiction. Rather, it is the increased use of pervasive technology that makes it hard for workers to focus on deep work and complete tasks that require extended periods of concentration.  

Because the challenges and threats of tech usage at work are different than those at home, a different approach is needed to address them. To meet this need, a consortium of organizational and academic experts recently formed to bring the human back to the center of the workplace. The newly-formed Humanizing the Digital Workplace Consortium was founded “to identify solutions and offer guidance to organizations about creating people-centric approaches that improve worker productivity, creativity and wellbeing.” The founding members of the consortium (of which I am one) include the following experts:

  • Alexandra Levit — Former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and writer for the New York Times, Fast Company and Forbes. She is the author of several books, including the international bestseller "They Don't Teach Corporate in College."
  • Dr. Paul Root Wolpe — The Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics at the Emory Center for Ethics. Dr. Wolpe is the author of over 125 articles, editorials, and book chapters in sociology, medicine, and bioethics, and has contributed to a variety of encyclopedias on bioethical issues. 
  • Amy Morin — Psychotherapist, lecturer at Northeastern University, and an internationally recognized expert in mental strength. Her book, "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," is an international bestseller that is being translated into 29 languages. Her latest book, "13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do," teaches parents how to become mental strength coaches so they can raise resilient children in the modern world.
  • R "Ray" Wang — Principal Analyst, Founder and Chairman of Constellation Research, Inc. He's also the author of the popular business strategy and technology blog A Software Insider’s Point of View and the best-selling book "Disrupting Digital Business." 
  • Gloria Mark — Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. She has published over 150 papers in the top journals and conferences in the fields of human-computer interactions (HCI) and computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) and is author of the book "Multitasking in the Digital Age."
  • Aaron Levy — Founder & CEO of Raise The Bar Consulting, a firm focused on helping companies retain their millennial talent by empowering managers to be better leaders of people. Aaron is an ICF Associate Certified Coach, a Thrive Global contributor, an 1871 mentor, the Co-Director of Startup Grind Chicago and a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. 
  • Manfred Leu — Head of Digital Workplace User Adoption & Consulting and a Director of IT at Swiss Re and is committed to implementing an IT environment that improves worker productivity.
  • David Lavenda – Vice President of Product Strategy for harmon.ie, as well as an information overload researcher. Lavenda is also a scholar for the Society for the History of Technology.

To see what the experts have to say about dealing with critical workplace challenges, to learn more about the consortium, and to get involved in the consortium, visit the consortium’s website.