With more pressure than ever before to remain productive while working from home during the current pandemic, becoming fully digital based in the way we work can be incredibly stressful for some, and can lead to something known as technostress. Below, we explore what technostress is and how you can help your employees and colleagues avoid it.
Technostress is the stress and negative psychological impact of introducing new technologies at work. The consequences of technostress are serious and shouldn’t be overlooked, ranging from issues such as headaches, anxiety, burnout and depression.
Invasion: This is when work is often brought home, either due to having a work phone, or having a big workload that can’t be completed within normal work hours. Thanks to smart devices & high-speed internet, a lot of employees can work at home, especially now during the current pandemic, meaning that it is harder to shut off and blurs the lines between home & work.
Overload: Even when working during normal work hours, it can be hard to focus, and we can feel overloaded by constant interruptions such as emails and video meetings.
Complexity: Employees who may be inexperienced with technology can find new software and equipment complex and intimidating. Even when we may have got to grips with software, new updates can also cause stress and frustration.
Insecurity: In some workplaces, employees are expected to learn about the new tools and software by themselves as they go along, without any additional time or training provided. This can result in performance anxiety and a real sense of insecurity, putting more pressure on employees.
Uncertainty: Technology is constantly advancing and updating, and this may bring about a sense of instability and uncertainty about what an employee’s work will look like tomorrow.
While it might seem logical that those using technology all day every day are more exposed to technostress, this isn’t the case. Employees that only use technology occasionally are more likely to suffer from technostress as people who regularly use technology, and when everyone is needing to adapt to a new way of working at a quick pace, this stress can be heightened even more.
As so much of our day-to-day lives relies on technology, it can be difficult to recognise the signs of techno stress. Humans only have one stress response, which is why symptoms of technostress are so like regular stress.
Now you have a basic understanding of what technostress is and what signs to look out for, making sure the correct measures are in place at your company is simple. Having a strong digital culture with a clear strategy on the use of technology within your business is key to overcoming technostress, and there are several ways you can implement this:
Assess the risk: Get a clear picture of the current situation. Many digital communication platforms made for working will offer a tool that allows you to investigate key insights on productivity trends, tools used and ‘screen time’ without invading your employees’ privacy. This will give you an idea of extra time spent on new tools, especially outside of usual work hours, to gain an insight on where people are struggling.
Raise general awareness: One of the biggest ways to combat any kind of mental health issue in the workplace is to raise awareness for it, and technostress is no different. By making sure all employees know about the signs, causes and dangers of technostress, those struggling are more likely to speak up.
Encourage work:life balance: To avoid technostress, employees should be encouraged to switch off from work at home, i.e don’t reply to work emails outside of work hours. By allowing employees to disconnect from work, you’ll have a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.
Carry out training: Making sure enough resources and training specifically for technology is available is key. This can help eliminate most factors that lead to technostress.
Review processes and procedures: Where necessary, adjust and re-design workdays to avoid unnecessary workload. This is particularly crucial in the new remote working environment, as it helps to consider any external stressors and factors that may not have impacted procedures and policies prior to COVID-19.
Reduce unnecessary communication: Arguably one of the biggest benefits of modern workplace technology is communication. We communicate with colleagues, teams, clients and suppliers like never before, however sometimes there is an expectation that people will respond all the time. This also poses the risk of overloading team members with hundreds of messages. Try and minimise unnecessary communication in order to help reduce the associated stress.
Despite being first discussed in the 80’s, technostress is becoming more common than ever, especially in a COVID-19 digital work world. By being aware of the contributing factors and their negative effects, you can protect your team and assist their tech knowledge where appropriate, helping to avoid a negative effect on their wellbeing.