Remote work is not going anywhere. According to Gartner, 82% of surveyed organisations plan to let employees work from home at least part time after the pandemic. But despite the many positive aspects of working from home, recent studies have found a correlation between remote work and technostress.
Companies are adopting new and improved versions of technology faster than ever before. When employees cannot keep up with these upgrades and their impact on day-to-day work, it can lead to technostress, also sometimes called techno-anxiety.
As a manager or an executive, it’s essential to recognise the symptoms of technostress and address the issues it can cause. We’ll walk you through the different types and causes and discuss its negative effects and how you can prevent it from happening in your team.
Technostress is anxiety, tension, or distress caused when a person is overwhelmed by new technology. It occurs when they are unable to adapt and learn to use it in a healthy, productive way.
The concept originally gained traction in 1984, when psychologist Craig Brod discussed it in his book, Technostress: The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution.
Technostress has been a growing problem since then, as companies rapidly adopt new technology and software companies roll out new upgrades every few weeks. Recently, it has become a concern as teams shift to working from home. Businesses need to adopt new tools for remote communication and collaboration, and we have seen a significant upswing in cloud migration.
Whether employees are working from home or in an office, there are five overarching causes of work-related technostress:
It’s important to watch for these techno-stressors among your team, as the effects can be serious.
The adverse effects of technostress range from biological effects to work-related effects like burnout and lost productivity. Though each employee will react a little differently, recent studies have found a few common impacts of technostress:
Technostress can be especially problematic for employees who are new to working remotely. Not only do they have anxiety from new technology, but they may also be dealing with childcare needs, a new schedule, or other unexpected changes in their working conditions.
The best way to mitigate the effects of technostress is to prevent it from happening. Avoid technostress in your team by helping them reduce notifications and digital distractions and by adopting tools to make it easier to learn new technology.
Studies show that work-related smartphone use after work hours increases burnout and that the feeling of being always connected correlates with higher work-family conflict. Assure your team that they don’t need to work after hours, and help them adopt healthy work-life balance practices. This will help them avoid techno-invasion and techno-overload during off-hours.
If you have a newly remote team, encourage them to have set work hours, just as they would in an office. Let them know that it’s acceptable to turn off email and other notifications. Don’t expect them to respond during off-hours or when they are on vacation. If your employees work flexible hours, remind them to fully “sign off” and not continue to check notifications after they finish work for the day.
Most importantly, lead by example. Try not to send direct messages during off-hours; if you do send something, mark it “not urgent.” Your team members may feel that if you’re working, they should be, too.
The massive amount of information constantly streaming in can cause information and communication technology (ICT) workers to feel like they don’t have enough time to complete their tasks. Use tools like RescueTime to help employees identify and block distracting websites and applications.
Blocking or pausing websites and applications when you’re not using them can reduce the amount of information coming in at any given time, which helps prevent techno-overload. It also helps your employees focus by minimising how much multitasking they are doing.
Tools like RescueTime track where you spend your time. They show you how often you’re jumping back and forth between websites and applications, distracting yourself and losing focus. RescueTime also offers a “focus time” feature, which blocks notifications for a set period and allows you to focus on your task completely.
You may need to adopt several new tools or pieces of software to manage a remote team, but don’t dump them all on your employees at once. Prevent technostress by introducing tools one at a time. If your employees can adopt technology gradually, they are less likely to feel overwhelmed.
Talk to your team before implementing new technology. Explain the tool’s purpose, why you plan to adopt it, and how the team will benefit. Help employees see the importance of the software, and give them a chance to weigh in on the best way to implement it.
Once you do adopt a tool, offer training—self-paced, instructor-led, or both. That way, employees can adjust to using the new tech without having to navigate it blindly. Make sure employees have the chance to ask for help and talk about any trouble they might be having.
One way to reduce techno-complexity and techno-uncertainty, both significant causes of technostress, is to implement a digital adoption platform (DAP). With a DAP, you can offer guided training to help each employee learn the new application without being overwhelmed.
DAPs reduce techno-complexity by taking users step-by-step through different features of the application. This guidance provides a path for employees to move through the software and keeps them from being overwhelmed, as they might be if they were clicking randomly through the app trying to learn it on their own.
In addition, DAPs lower techno-uncertainty through feature alerts. Alerts let users know when there are new updates and connect them to a walk-through of the latest feature.
Whatfix DAP alerts users to new features and takes them to a walk-through.
Knowing that guidance will always be available for new features can help keep employees from being too stressed about pending updates.
Walk-throughs, self-help menus, and other DAP features are available whenever an employee needs them, allowing users to learn at their own pace. Along with other strategies for reducing notifications and introducing technology gradually, implementing a DAP helps prevent technostress by ensuring employees have clear guidance and are not overwhelmed by complex software.
Watch for signs of technostress by communicating with your remote team. Since you don’t see them every day, it can be harder to detect stress in remote team members than with an in-office team. In addition to full-team stand-ups, have weekly or monthly one-on-ones with each of your team members.
Ask how they’re doing and whether they have any concerns about adjusting to remote work or learning to use the new technology the company has adopted. Regular check-ins will help you detect and address technostress early so that you can prevent severe symptoms, such as cognitive issues or burnout.