David Mccormack CEO (1)

With growing numbers of workers carrying out their roles from home using digital technology, David McCormack, CEO of HIVE360, shares the technostress signs to look out for and how you can prevent your employees experiencing it, or help them overcome it.

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.

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 with developing technical knowledge where appropriate and, in turn, help to avoid a negative effect on employees' wellbeing.

Causes of technostress

1. Invasion: when work is brought into the home. Significant numbers of employees are now regularly, often constantly, working at home and this can make it hard to shut off as home working 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, which 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. The main signs are:

1. Cortisol (our stress hormone) - Levels increases significantly, often leading to strain and burnout.

2. Physical - 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 about 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.

How to help prevent and overcome technostress

Employers must have a strong digital culture with a clear strategy on technology use within the business. Try 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 you to investigate 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, so that you can offer support if needed.

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, encourage your employees to switch off from work outside of their standard work hours and don't expect them to respond to digital communications when they are not at work. By allowing employees to disconnect from work, they’ll be happier, healthier and more productive.

4. Training: Make sure that you build in sufficient, accessible resources and training for any technology that you introduce. Be sure to offer plenty of support to all your employees and follow up with refresher training so that employees can get help with anything they are struggling with.

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, and sometimes there is an expectation that people will respond all the time and within short timescales. This creates a risk of overloading team members, so strive to minimise unnecessary communication to help reduce the associated stress.

David McCormack is CEO of HIVE360, a specialist employee benefits and outsourced payroll provider. It offers compliant and reliable PAYE payroll support and comprehensive employment administration to reduce overheads and improve 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. For more information, visit: www.hive360.com

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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