How the Largest Independently Owned Tech Media Site Fosters Digital Well-being Among Employees

Ian Bell, the CEO of the largest independently owned tech media site, considers digital well-being a major focus for the Digital Trends audience---and for their employees. Having a positive impact on society starts with your inner circle, he says.

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Ian Bell, CEO of Digital Trends
Ian Bell, CEO of Digital Trends

The public is becoming more aware of technology’s consequences for human well-being. From social media’s impact on mental health to fake news, Alexa’s eavesdropping to Facebook’s year of privacy violations, we’re taking a more careful look at the way we use tech in our everyday lives.

Research by Edelman showed 2018 to be a year of decline for public trust in the tech sector, and a year when tech companies failed to actively build trust. Forbes cites the deterioration of public trust as one of the tech industry’s biggest challenges for 2019. According to Kris Beevers, CEO of network infrastructure company NS1, “the industry needs leaders to take ownership of these shortcomings and make deliberate efforts to have a positive, responsible impact on society.”

Such leaders may be few and far between, but Digital Trends CEO and co-founder Ian Bell is committed to being one of them. “In an industry that doesn’t always put people before data and dollars, we’re a bit of an anomaly,” Bell says. Digital Trends has risen to become the largest independent tech media site in the nation, but they got there through an unusual path. According to Bell, their insistence on authenticity reflects a vigilance about the way they use tech in their own lives, and how they communicate about tech in their news stories. As far as Digital Trends is concerned, technology should serve us, rather than dictating our futures.

Bell considers digital well-being a major focus for the Digital Trends audience—and for their employees. Having a positive impact on society starts with your inner circle, he says, including your colleagues and employees.

Here’s how Bell says you can foster digital well-being among your team.

Constantly Reevaluate Your Relationship With Tech

For any given tech interaction, encourage employees to ask ‘why am I using this tech right now?’ Is it to fill a gap in attention or time? Is it controlling you, or is it helping you? Digital Trends mantra “tech for the way we live” guides their editorial voice, and it’s also a reminder to staff about the appropriate dynamic between technology and humanity. Every tech interaction should be helping us accomplish something more quickly and easily, or otherwise improving our experience.

Prioritize Human Interactions

Structure opportunities for face time throughout the workday, as opposed to just pinging co-workers on Slack. People need interactions with other people in order to be healthy. “There’s plenty of research to support this [idea that human interaction promotes health],” says Bell. “But it’s something we all know intuitively.” Digital Trends invested in a full, state of the art kitchen and encourages travel among their offices in LA, Portland, NYC and Chicago to facilitate cooperation and IRL conversation. Consider it an investment, not a luxury.

Take a Tech Break in the Trees

Plan employee retreats to unplug, destress, and reset. These should center around human connection and team-building, especially for members of the executive team. Go someplace refreshing, outside of the city. Over half of American employees don’t use their vacation days. Consider this an opportunity to encourage your team in self-care, and to build positive experiences with colleagues outside the office. “We want a healthy workplace,” Bell notes, “not just a relentlessly productive one.” He says retreats also support the positive associations employees have with their workplace. When you have a team that feels at home at work, everyone does a better job.

Praise in Public, or At Least in Person

Give kudos in real life. Thanks to social media, much of our daily positive reinforcement comes from likes. Those dopamine jolts are nice, but making sure to give praise in person fosters healthy real-life relationships and behaviors. It reminds everyone that all their hard work isn’t just going towards digital cred points, it’s positively impacting real human lives. Remember that people want to do a good job, and they’re not just trying to win token acknowledgments or extra pennies. Sometimes a smile or a sense of belonging is the most satisfying payoff. “We have a incredible and committed team,” says Bell. “And retention is about building a real sense of community, recognizing the way every individual contributes to the whole.”

A Healthy Relationship With Tech is a Personal, Professional, and Social Solution

Following Digital Trends’ commitment to authenticity and supportive company culture will create a trustworthy organization from the inside out. If you’re a tech company, or a tech publishing company, that will also position you as a beacon of reliability in a world where public trust is on thin ice.

But whatever your industry, best practices for healthy relationships with technology can permeate every level of life, from the workplace to the home to the way you consume. When we’re in charge of our tech, we’re in charge of our minds and our work. That’s the path not only to a healthier life, but to a healthier society.

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