Navigating the digital deluge: A blueprint for learning and talent leaders

For CLOs and talent development leaders, embedding digital wellness into the fabric of organizational learning and talent strategies is not just an investment in technology — it’s an investment in the future of work.

In the era of remote and hybrid work, the emphasis on employee “digital wellness” is more critical than ever, especially as organizations navigate the complexities of online learning environments. The transition to these virtual work models highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between working and meeting on screens and mental wellbeing. In this article, we outline how this shift impacts the landscape of work, learning and talent development.

The challenge of digital overload in remote and hybrid work

In a typical day, employees often face a barrage of digital notifications, with an average of 34 push notifications interrupting their workday. 

Amy Blankson, a thought leader in the field of positive psychology and digital balance, explains, “These interruptions, though seemingly minor, can significantly derail productivity and contribute to digital fatigue.”

Seventy-four percent of us reach for our phone within the first five minutes of the day, and 92 percent of employees say it’s hard to disconnect after work, according to the Digital Wellness Institute.

Furthermore, remote work environments exacerbate the addictive habit of checking one’s phone — which people do an average of 150 times per day — leading to decreased efficiency and potentially longer work hours. 

“Finding strategies to manage these interruptions is vital for sustaining focus and wellbeing in a digital-first workplace,” Blankson says.

What is digital wellness?

Digital wellness is defined as the pursuit of an intentional and healthy relationship with technology. While many roles require reliance on technology, and while there is a continued focus on leveraging technology for reinforcing learning, such as through microlearning and learning nudges and whispers, the goal of digital wellness is to promote healthy habits — for example, turning on a “do not disturb” feature that blocks out digital noise. While these technologies are valuable tools, learning and talent executives should be mindful of digital wellness in their learning strategy.

A nudge, in the context of learning, can be delivered through mediums like email, text or via a company’s learning management system. A whisper course is a series of emails, each of which contains a suggestion that managers could try out during their team meetings.

Global trends in the adoption of digital wellness policies

Recent regulations underscore the importance of digital wellness in the workplace. Countries like Canada, France and Spain have introduced “right to disconnect” laws, acknowledging the necessity for employees to unplug after work hours. This legislative approach is gaining traction as a method to combat the continuous digital engagement that remote and hybrid work often demand.

U.S. companies and digital wellness initiatives

Even without Federal legislation, U.S.-based employers, such as JPMorgan, Cisco and Delta Airlines, trailblaze the path toward digital wellness in their staff. They recognize the link between employee wellbeing and productivity, especially in remote and hybrid models. 

Dr. Jacquelyn Kung, founder of Activated Insights, a Great Place to Work affiliate, observes, “These companies are not just investing in digital wellness for its own sake but as a strategic approach to attracting and retaining top talent in a competitive landscape.”

Research-based digital wellness benefits

The Digital Balance Index™ plays a crucial role in understanding the impact of digital wellness initiatives, showing positive outcomes like lower employee burnout and improved mental health. 

“The correlation between digital wellness and workplace outcomes like higher resilience and lower turnover intentions cannot be overstated,” states Blankson, underlining the research-backed approach to digital wellness.

Implementing digital wellness in workplaces

Establishing communication charters and leveraging microlearnings and tech-enabled apps are practical steps toward managing digital consumption. These tools are particularly beneficial for remote workers, helping to minimize distractions and enhance productivity.

Building your wellbeing learning curriculum and strategy with digital wellness in mind

Wellbeing encompasses a holistic approach to wellness — professionally, physically and mentally. This means learning how to take care of employees through a new lens and innovating through planning, programming with digital wellness among other factors in mind. Nudges and whispers are examples of what many companies use to support engagement with learning programs. 

As an example, Google uses whisper courses for on-the-job microlearning, from coaching to inclusion. While effective in many instances, learning leaders need to be mindful of the holistic learning environment and competing technology.

Impact on productivity, learning and talent development

Digital wellness is foundational to redefining productivity and efficiency in the context of remote and hybrid work. By reducing digital distractions, organizations can foster an environment that supports focused work, continuous learning and talent development. 

Blankson emphasizes: “Integrating digital wellness strategies is key to developing a workforce that is both high-performing and mentally resilient.”

For chief learning officers and talent development leaders, embedding digital wellness into the fabric of organizational learning and talent strategies is not just an investment in technology — it’s an investment in the future of work. By prioritizing digital balance, CLOs and CTOs champion a culture that values mental health and wellbeing alongside productivity and innovation. This strategic focus is essential for nurturing a resilient, adaptable and engaged workforce ready to thrive in an ever-changing digital landscape.