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The point of no return

The point of no return

By Rob Husband

It cannot be denied that technology is always evolving, and we are told that it is ever improving. But are we, the designers, the makers and the users of technology, improving with it? Or is it causing us to become increasingly susceptible to anxiety, stress and other mental health challenges?

Researchers have made pretty strong links between technology and anxiety. Since the 1950s, the incidence of mental illness has remained fairly stable until this year, and there has been a particular spike amongst females aged 16 to 25. Social media appears to be playing a part.

There is now great societal pressure on us to enter the public space by posting ourselves and the detail of our lives on the vast notice board that the social media channels make up. Accompanying this is a philosophy that you can be whatever you want to be; you can control and manipulate your looks, your relationships, your life to become the kind of person you have dreamed of being. This, in my opinion, is not always true. Life does things to us at times – things that are beyond our control and that cannot, or should not, be turned into a public relations exercise to improve our own image.

It is a challenge to put any distance between ourselves and what is going on around us because we are bombarded daily with messages about what we should be, and some of it is linked to notions of how business should be conducted. We have become conduits for selling. Work your network. Connect on social media. Ask a family member or friend to introduce you to someone you can sell to. The ‘sell’ is the purpose, the catalyst for a relationship. But this is not how I want to conduct business. I want Space2think to develop collaborative work as a natural outcome of a positive relationship. To us, the relationship is more important than the ‘sell’ and we have to work hard to maintain this value.

Recently, I introduced a session on wellbeing within a programme, and someone asked, “How does this connect with business outcomes?”

“Maybe it doesn’t,” I said. “Perhaps it is more important to look after each other’s wellbeing without thinking about the business outcome.”

Do our business systems and the philosophy that comes with them – the drive to make money at every opportunity – need to change? In addressing mental health at work, are we just playing around with the symptoms instead of tackling the cause? What can we do before it is too late?

I used to run but I had to stop because my tendons do not recover quickly enough, and I permanently damaged my collarbone when I fell off my bike and broke it. What of my mental health? When is the point of no return? Have I passed it? And what about others? Are we close to irreversible societal damage?

Perhaps we urgently need a revolution – of thinking, of working, of socialising, of forming relationships, of building businesses – before it is too late. What do you think?

Image attribution: Ryan Adams  on Flickr under Creative Commons License