Mental Health: Digital Consumption vs Digital Learning

In a world of self-isolation, time lost to mental health is on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic has constricted the coping boundaries for many. Even before this crisis unfolded, according to consultancy firm Deloitte, a growing number of employees were experiencing burnout as technology encroached into all aspects of our lives, expanding the definition of work hours.

While there are several factors that can lead to mental health problems, for employers and Learning and Development professionals working in a now, hyper-digital world, the effect of digital learning and consumption must be considered.

There is a rapid growth of workplace technology used worldwide. Besides a pandemic that is forcing the virtual isolation of millions, this growth was already attributed to a number of factors, including an explosion among emerging economies trying to close the education gap, the need to educate vast numbers of people at low cost, the falling price of learning solutions, the needs of the modern workforce to engage in lifelong learning, and the ease and convenience of online learning compared with attending a physical classroom.

All this means that more people are going to spend even more time on their digital devices, while being increasingly surrounded by other technology, from fridges streaming news to watches vibrating with an endless stream of alerts.

Mental health experts concerned about our digital consumption are exploring the best ways to balance eLearning with screen time and our relentless integration with the digital world. Evidence suggests we’re becoming over dependent on and addicted to our devices, increasing our stress and anxiety.

That stress and anxiety can be caused by several different things, including perpetual distractions, sleep dysregulation, difficulty balancing work and life, social comparison, and the all-too-familiar fear of missing out (FOMO). Being overly connected can cause psychological issues such as narcissism, expectation of instant gratification, a reduction of empathy, and even depression.

According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association Center for Organizational Excellence, digital technology helps people be more flexible and productive, and makes it easier to get work done. The trick is to take active steps to manage the use of technology so the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Learning and Development professionals offering digital solutions should keep potential pitfalls in mind, offering courses that leverage the best digital learning has to offer – not just another device to get lost in.

Promoting Positive Mental Health

Here are some ways eLearning professionals can promote positive mental health among learners:

  • Create an open learning culture where digital knowledge and technology are the conduit to a more effective transfer of knowledge and change in behavior.
  • Offer self-paced courses to allow learners to work without the pressure of strict deadlines. They can spend more time on concepts they find challenging without the urgency to catch up by a certain date.
  • Provide smaller chunks of knowledge consumption across a wider set of digital mediums, allowing workers to learn as needed, while on the job.
  • Create assignments that allow learners to work together digitally. Regular contact with different peers will create a greater sense of community in a digital environment. Ensure peer to peer support is integrated into the digital experience.
  • Allow learners to choose when they can “attend” class, allowing them the flexibility to create schedules that work best for their work and family life.
  • Create online discussion boards to encourage employees to join virtual study groups and reduce potential feelings of isolation.
  • Include software such as video chat platforms and virtual reality applications to improve communication between other learners and their instructor.

The benefits of eLearning have been well documented. However, understanding the best way to create positive environments and platforms for that learning to occur in a balanced, productive way is a vital part of fostering the mental health of employees.


Xpan develops digital learning solutions for companies globally. From design to deployment, our team is making heroes of Learning and Development Officers and contributing to the worldwide number of individuals improving their workplace experience (and lives) with better learning.

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