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What is Technostress?

4 months ago by Andrea Amato

Exploring and strategising against the darker side of technology.

With a world revolving around technological software and equipment, we’re used to updating our knowledge with learning how to use the latest advances. Whilst technology often brings us comfort and convenience, it can also become a great stressor as well. Technology has generally brought about great invention and innovation toward all working industries, but like all inventions, we must consider its downfalls alongside the advantages.

Technostress refers to the negative impacts technology and digital services/devices has on our mental and physical wellbeing. This includes musculoskeletal issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, alongside frustrations that incur when failing to comprehend a newly introduced technology. In the past, technostress commonly occurred to individuals who worked closely with technology—nowadays, that party has evolved to include all employees—in different yet significant capacities.

 Causes & effects of technostress

Our present working jobs in Malta and abroad depends on technology and the use of multiple digital devices to keep us connected at all hours of the day, even when we’re out of the office. This is nowadays especially true as many workers continue to apply for work from home jobs, and many believe will continue to do so even after the pandemic remits.

Our drive toward constant connectivity has led us to information overload; constant emails, instant messages across various communication software, whilst feeling as though it’s our responsibility to respond immediately when someone is trying to reach us. Besides the obvious work distractions and interruptions these bring, there’s a darker side to technology that does more than meet the eye.

Technostress due to information overload presents in human beings as chronic fatigue, burnout, difficulty concentrating, poor time management in completing tasks, among others. Much of the research on technostress presents several components of the theory, including:

  • Techno-invasion: being inundated with too much technology generally,

  • Techno-overload: usually refers to a busy working lifestyle, too many technological interruptions,

  • Techno-unreliability: the frustration that ensues when technology fails to compute a task and creates errors,

  • Techno-complexity: difficulty in understanding novel technologies that makes us feel inadequate, confused, frustrated, and

  • Techno-insecurity: as a result, we feel insecure about using technology and that it can replace our worth in an organisation.

The above identifies several ways on how technology can become burdensome in our everyday working in-office and remote jobs. It helps us understand, and combat, the negative implications offered by technology across diverse disciplines, including IT, banking, and other finance jobs.

Managing technostress

Whilst technostress focuses its approach on the disadvantages of technology, it doesn’t neglect the positive: in that technology can and has made our working lives easier generally. Software developer tools that allow us to enjoy minimal workloads as they compute high volumes of data in a matter of seconds, alongside other automated processes, attests to the importance technology has in our everyday lives.

Rather, technostress points out that we can continue to enjoy the benefits technology brings as we confront its challenging factors. When technology adds to our workloads and contributes to workplace stressors, then we’ve to perceive technology in a new light before it causes detrimental harm to employees and employers.

There’s incentive to combatting technostress, where one early study found an inverse relationship between technostress and employee productivity (Tarafdar et al., 2007). Their implications reported that, in ignoring stress attributed to IT jobs and technology generally organisations will offset productivity targets. Technostress has also been found to link with reduced performance, job satisfaction, among others.

Upon introducing novel technologies to an organisation, leaders and employers alike should consider the needs of employees. Are the technologies being implemented accessible, difficult to understand? Would employees benefit from training facilities before implementing digital devices to the workplace? These questions help form a starting point in considering employee needs and aligning these with organisational goals.

Employer & employee recommendations to combat technostress

Technology can be daunting as it can become an immense stressor in our lives. With technology continuing to advance, we can only expect further dependency and reliability placed upon them. It’s worth understanding both its negative and positive implications as we further move into a digitalised planet.

Guidance for improving technostress involves:

  • Learning and training opportunities: as mentioned beforehand, managers should embark on training developments that can help employees understand and upkeep with technological demands. This is a long-term strategy as new technologies will require further upskilling.

  • A dedicated IT team: whilst training opportunities are helpful, there should be a dedicated IT team willing to support employees throughout their careers. Technology is not perfect, so when a myriad of challenges arises, employees will be taken care of.

  • Explore several software tools: whilst the latest software and device may sound appealing, they’re often quite complicated to apply to a larger group of individuals. It’s worth taking the time to explore easier, more accessible options, so not to overwhelm yourself or your peers.

  • Minimise technological disruptions: if all our devices are set to ping every time a notification arises, it’s inevitable that these will become stressful with time. When you’re completing a difficult workplace task, close your email application and put your mobile phone on silent so that you can work without interruption.

  • Unplug: when the working day remits, shut down your computer and work phone and do not engage with these until the following workday. It’s important to set clear, distinct boundaries between your work and home life, in order to unwind from your job properly.

Whilst these points represent general tips in creating boundaries in the workplace, it’s worth observing the organisational culture as well. Companies should understand and value work-life boundaries and not pressure you onto a world of constant connectivity. It can be difficult to set concrete boundaries all the time, however, there are smaller ways in which we can avoid technological disturbances as we navigate the working day.

As the world continues to evolve alongside technological trends, we cannot ignore its impact on our wellbeing. In this way, it’s worth learning a strategy or two in how we can manage our stress load, in order to maintain a positive perspective on technology and its usefulness in our daily jobs.