The Importance of Cyber-Wellness in the Post-COVID-19 New Normal
Increasingly, wellness and well-being have come into the forefront of national discourse in Singapore, and indeed, around the world, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Paradoxically, while well-being has taken a hit due to COVID-19, the pandemic has also brought well-being into the public consciousness. In fact, in his address to the nation on October 9 2021, PM Lee Hsien Loong noted the “psychological and emotional strain, and mental fatigue” that COVID-19 had brought in its wake.
The pandemic has resulted in persistent stresses and strains, which, if left unattended, can have negative impacts on one’s physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. One of these strains comes from the continuous usage of digital devices, which, if used incorrectly or uncritically, can have an adverse impact on health and well-being. In the workplace, this can be seen in the blurring of personal and professional boundaries due to extended Work From Home (WFH) arrangements, for instance.
There are many wellness-related issues that arise from the extended role of the Internet and digital technologies in our working lives, and managers and employers must be aware of these strains and have policies and strategies in place to proactively manage and mitigate these issues.
Health and safety in the workplace have become a key aspect of workplace wellness. With WFH becoming the norm, workplace wellness needs to expand to include cyber-well-being. Simply put, cyber-wellness refers to the health, happiness, prosperity, and fulfilment of people as they use the internet.
In Singapore, cyber-wellness has been part of the Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) in schools, which has got increased emphasis from 2021. However, this is an aspect that needs more attention in the workplace and in our private lives.
Cyber-Well-being = Cybersecurity + Cybersafety
Cyber-wellness is linked to cybersafety, which refers to an emphasis on people versus cybersecurity, which usually refers to safety of information and devices. Cyber-wellness should include both aspects, with the emphasis on health and hygiene of devices as well as the people that use them. In the workplace therefore, cybersecurity and cybersafety knowledge and awareness-raising should go hand-in-hand, and it must include the wellness element. After all, isn’t a company’s greatest asset its people?
One of the first steps is to identify dangers on the Internet, and to categorise how they are harmful to our health and well-being: in other words, to identify what are the physical, mental, emotional, and financial cyber-threats. Through training, talks, and other awareness-generating activities, employees can learn to identify dangers within and across categories, and thereafter, learn how to protect themselves.
You may be surprised to know that these protective mechanisms do not require complex technologies or theories, but simple hacks, skills and knowledge, which if applied regularly, can keep you, your family, and your employees/co-workers safer, healthier, and happier online.
In addition to regular training/workshops/courses on cybersafety and cyber-wellness, a workplace wellness programme should incorporate reflection about one’s roles and responsibilities in relation to new technologies in the workplace.
As a starting point I would recommend an understanding of your online behaviours and learning how to communicate respectfully; prioritising cyber-hygiene and upgrading your cybersecurity knowledge; and maintaining a positive balance between online and offline time and activities.
While safe management measures (SMMs) won't last forever, WFH or at least some form of flexible/remote working will continue into the foreseeable future. Companies must ensure that well-being is a priority, and that cyber-wellness awareness and activities are included as part of workplace well-being initiatives.
Dr Anuradha (Anu) Rao is a cybersecurity and cybersafety awareness trainer and educator, and the founder of Singapore-based company, CyberCognizanz. She combines her communications and new media, political science, and cybersecurity knowledge to fuel her passion of making cyberspace a safer and happier place for everyone. Dr. Rao has a PhD in Communications and New Media from the National University of Singapore (NUS). If you are interested in making cyber-wellness and cybersafety a priority at your workplace or home you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.