14 Jan 2021

Technostress in home workers on the rise


Growing numbers of workers under pressure to work digitally and online from home, are suffering from ‘technostress', a syndrome that leads to anxiety, burnout and depression.

“Workers are under unprecedented pressure to maintain productivity and efficiency while working from home in a fully digital way, which can be highly stressful,” explains David McCormack, CEO of employee benefits and outsourced payroll provider HIVE360.

“This is triggering a number of worrying mental and emotional issues from the stress and negative psychological impact of introducing new technologies. This syndrome is Technostress, and its main symptoms include anxiety, burnout and depression.”

First defined in 1984, technostress is becoming more common than ever, especially in the COVID-19 digital work world: “Technostress occurs when people subjected to information overload and continuous contact with digital devices, develop a state of stress, or an abnormal response characterised by specific symptoms at cardiocirculatory, mental and neurological levels,” says. David.

“The consequences of technostress are serious and shouldn't be overlooked. By being aware of the contributing factors and their negative effects, employers and colleagues can protect their team and assist tech knowledge where appropriate, in turn, helping to avoid a negative effect on their wellbeing.”

Major causes of technostress

  1. Invasion:when work is brought into the home. Significant numbers of employees are regularly, often constantly, working at home, and this makes it hard to shut off and blurs the lines between home and work.
  2. Overload: even when working during normal work hours, it can be hard to focus, which leads to feeling overloaded by constant tech interruptions such as emails and video meetings.
  3. Complexity: employees inexperienced with technology can find new software and equipment complex and intimidating, and this causes stress and frustration.
  4. Insecurity:in some workplaces, employees are expected to learn about new tech and software by themselves, without any extra time or training provided. This can result in insecurity and performance anxiety.
  5. Uncertainty: technology is constantly advancing and updating, which can create a sense of instability and uncertainty about what work will look like tomorrow.

Four signs of technostress

Humans only have one stress response, which is why symptoms of technostress are so like regular stress, but the main signs are:

  1. Cortisol (our stress hormone): increases significantly, often leading to strain and burnout.
  2. Physical: including headaches, sore neck, back, and shoulder muscles, an inability to relax, and hypertension.
  3. Mental: Increased errors, lower productivity, lack of concentration, low morale, depression, mental exhaustion, cynicism of technology.
  4. Emotional: panic/anxiety attacks, feelings of isolation, irritability, less time for sustained thinking, work:life imbalance, lower job satisfaction, increased mental and time pressure.

Six ways to help workers prevent and overcome technostress

Employers must have a strong digital culture with a clear strategy on technology use within the business, by implementing these strategies:

  1. Assess the risk:get a clear picture of the current situation. Many digital communication platforms offer a tool that without invading employees' privacy, allow investigation of key insights on productivity trends, tools used and ‘screen time'. This provides an idea of extra time spent on new tools, especially outside of usual work hours, and if employees may be struggling.
  2. Raise awareness:one of the biggest ways to combat any kind of mental health issue in the workplace is to raise awareness of it, so ensure all employees know the signs, causes and dangers of technostress.
  3. 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, they'll be happier, healthier and more productive.
  4. Training:sufficient, accessible resources and training for technology is key.
  5. Review processes and procedures:adjust and re-design workdays to avoid unnecessary workload. This is vital in the current predominantly home-based working model, as it helps consider external stressors and factors that may not have impacted procedures and policies prior to COVID-19.
  6. Reduce unnecessary communication:current levels of communication with colleagues, teams, clients and suppliers are unprecedented, but sometimes there is an expectation that people will respond all the time, bringing a risk of overloading team members, so strive to minimise unnecessary communication to help reduce the associated stress.

HIVE360 is a specialist employee benefits and outsourced payroll provider, and its compliant and reliable PAYE payroll support and comprehensive employment administration reduces overheads and improves operational efficiencies for businesses and their workforce. As part of the solution, HIVE360 supports its clients in kickstarting employee engagement strategies and activities by empowering them to deliver essential communication, wellbeing support and lifestyle benefits via its employee digital health and wellbeing app, Engage.