August 30, 2019
Technology at the workplace was explicitly introduced to make it easier to complete tasks and thus improve efficiency, speed and, ultimately, employee happiness levels. And that is largely what it has been doing since the beginning of the Information Age. But, if Ray Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns is to be believed, exponential increases in the rate of technological change has been occurring throughout history. This means that new and improved versions of technology are being invented and adopted faster than ever before. Especially, in recent times, technology feels like it’s accelerating at break-neck speed – because it is. And employees are just unable to keep up with these upgrades and its implications on their job! This is what ultimately leads to technostress (or technoanxiety).
What is Technostress?
According to psychologist Craig Brod (1984), technostress is “a modern disease of adaptation caused by an inability to cope with the new computer technologies in a healthy manner.”
It is this fear and struggle to accept new technology that results in anxiety that often causes physiological issues such as irritability, headaches, and nightmares.
“Technoanxiety most commonly afflicts those who feel pressured–by employers, peers, or the general culture–to accept and use computers” he adds.
Other technostress induced physical health concerns include muscle problems, headaches, mental and physical fatigue, anxiety, fear or boredom. It also tends to reduce job satisfaction. And low job satisfaction means employees are less committed to their work, leading to lower efficiency and increased turnover and absenteeism.
So, the correlation is simple:
Increase in the number of tools = Increase in stress levels = Drop in employee productivity and happiness
5 Types of Technostress Indicators To Look Out For
Now, in every work environment, there are different ways in which technostress manifests itself.
In this segment, we will analyze the case of a hospital that recently sanctioned technological upgrades – addition of the Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) and Health Information Technology (HIT) into the workflow. The Workday tool is great for achieving complete visibility into your global workforce and end to end people management, while the HIT helps manage patient records and such. But without the right kind of change management measures, here are the five different types of this tech-related workplace issues that can occur:
- Techno-overload – Are your staff members regularly inundated with messages and notifications on apps, work email and other Information and Communications Technology (ICT) platforms? They are not alone. This sort of clutter prevents employees from concentrating on their work, causing poor decision making and issues with memorizing. The information overload also reduces the employees’ ability to work faster or manage a higher workload. According to a research by Ragu-Nathan, “techno-overload occurs when ICTs force users to work faster and longer”. What’s more, Deloitte’s Future of Work report states that workers get interrupted every 5 minutes, by work applications and collaboration tools. Meanwhile, a recent Forrester study reports that close to 50% of employees miss important information owing to the mountain of emails they receive. This is what happens in hospitals too. Nursing staff (who operate in shifts) feel like they have to work more and longer owing to complex HIT and other ICT systems. Nurses end up feeling distressed as they are burdened by the pressure to complete more work in the same amount of time. Eventually, they miss out on important patient details, which can lead to catastrophic results.
- Techno-invasion – Do a lot of your workers complain of burning-out? This may be because of the presence of mobile devices around them all the time that spew work-related information. This overwhelms employees and they feel tied to their job even after they clock out. In fact, if they don’t check their mail, they worry about missing out on job-critical updates – also known as Fear of missing out (FOMO). The end result is – zero work life balance. In fact, the Deloitte report also states that 40% of the US population believes it is impossible to have a healthy family life, if they wish to succeed in their career. When nurses keep getting updates on their patient’s health, interspersed with non-critical admin tasks, they too are unable to switch off from work. This prevents them from recharging for the next shift, leading to fatigue and stress.
- Techno-complexity – Most agile companies are constantly improving on their workplace technologies. But many employees are just not able to understand how to navigate these new tech additions. So, they struggle to use the software or make costly mistakes – both resulting in stress. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), healthcare technology is considered as a highly complex system by care providers. And research (Ayyagari et al. 2011) states that when users (including nurses) perceive technology as inherently complex, they find it a struggle to understand its many complex features.
- Techno-uncertainty – Since technology is constantly changing, changes in workflow are also inevitable. So, employees may end up feeling unsure about their work environment. This means that they are never confident about how to do their job properly. Further compounding this problem is the fact that the half-life of most professional skills is now five years only. Also, research (Bucknall and Thomas 1997) points to the fact that nurses are often not clued in on healthcare technology, especially relating to hardware and networks. Thus, they experience high levels of uncertainty and stress.
- Technoinsecurity – Also known as techphobia, this condition is seen especially amongst the older generation who are scared to try out new technologies. And not picking up on these new tool ends up threatening their job security.
Many a time, nurses fear that with the growth of AI systems, their jobs will be taken over. They also feel like HIT comes in between them and their patients. This creates a sense of insecurity amongst the caregivers leading to poor performance at the workplace.
How to Combat Technostress, Improve Digital Adoption and Employee Productivity
Imagine a scenario where a nurse (with decades of work experience), enters the hospital, and walks over to the hospital manager to tell him why she came in late that day. In response, the manager (Steve) installs and opens up the Workday workforce management app in the nurse’s phone and says, “We don’t take verbal or email accounts of absence and attendance anymore. From now onwards, you just need to enter your time-off requests along with timesheet updates, into this app.”
“This will also allow us to track, analyze and compare your time spent on each task and absences with that of other nurses, through detailed reports. Just think of the improved productivity and cost-saving!” he adds excitedly.
She eyes the apps with distrust, a bead of nervous sweat runs down her cheek, and comments “I’m not very good with technology. Besides, don’t you trust my word on why I needed the time off?”
Meanwhile, a gazillion workplace-related messages popup on her device.
From here on, the story could go in two directions.
Option1: Steve, could dismiss her trepidation about the new Workday technology and changes it will bring about in their workflow.
This would result in the nurse (and her colleagues) feeling mistrusted, abandoned, demotivated and ill equipped to do their job. Soon, everywhere you look there will be technostress. And, ultimately, the nurses will quit or make grievous errors at work leading to damaging lawsuits.
Option 2: Or Steve could take note of the nurse’s discomfort and get down to action to help them deal with the technostress.
If you were in the hospital manager’s shoes, here is what you should do:
- Analyse the situation: First step would be to identify the potential stressor, in this case the new Workday app. And next, you need to determine whether the person (re: nurse) has the necessary resources (tech know-how to download and use the app, access to a desktop, a phone that can run the apps etc) to cope with this stressor. Also, figure out what kind of budget you have in order to incorporate stress-management in the workplace. Answers to these questions will help you plan for next steps.
- Change management: Any change, including the addition of new technology, such as Workday’s time and attendance tracking system, should be managed with finesse and care. This will ensure smooth adoption of the technology and minimum technostress.
- Deliver technology-specific end-user training: Almost every major system change usually involves one macro training module, in the form of a classroom style session or powerpoint on the LMS. Apart from this, it’s helpful to follow a cycle of “educate, rehearse and application of the training” in everyday ICT use. You could also choose more engaging forms of training such as gamification of learning, peer-to-peer learning & microlearning to integrate learning into the flow of work. In this manner, employees will have all their major disconnects with the technology resolved as they work with it.
- Deliver training on technostress: Even after really thorough and well-targeted training sessions for technology, many employees may still feel uncomfortable using it. For such scenarios, first conduct online surveys or quizzes where people’s technostress levels can be analyzed. Then, based on the results, offer training on the glaring problem areas. You should also provide practical suggestions on how to modify the users’ behaviours and relationship with ICTs.
- Offer on-demand technical support: To help employees get out of tough spots, when using the Workday app in the first few months, the best tool would be an always-on helpdesk or a Digital Adoption Solution (DAS). The in-app guidance system, Whatfix (click here for a trial session), is one such tool that offers personalized and real-time digital guidance and makes it easier to understand how to use the Workday interface most efficiently.
- Minimize distractions: Instead of making your employees use multiple apps for different tasks, develop a single platform that can be used to manage all of it under one roof. Also, try to include productivity-enhancing features in the app, such as a ‘do-not-disturb’ property that silences unnecessary app notifications during surgeries, meal-times, meetings and such.
Whatfix Smart Assist also helps by recommending the most relevant, personalized and contextual support to users, on-demand. And thus, it helps break through the information clutter and help users find the right information at the right time.
- Encourage better work-life balance: The current job market is a never-ending rat race. In this man-eat-man world, employees need to constantly be available on their portable devices, to stay relevant. Obviously, this leads to a lot of stress. And as an organization, you need to realize that too much connectedness can also be a bane.
So, encourage your employees to switch off from technology periodically. Especially once they are done with their shift, they should be given the freedom to not stress about work.
- Get user buy-in before implementing new technology: This step should ideally be part of every new technology upgrade/addition. By including employees in the decision making process, of deciding to use an attendance tracking system, they will feel like their opinion matters. And they will try harder to get comfortable with the tool (here: Workday) since they feel more invested in the success of the new technology.
Now, you need to decide which storyline to follow.
Option two would definitely involve more work and planning from the hospital’s end, but the end result would be a confident and productive healthcare workforce. The choice is simple enough.
How have you handled technostress in your organization?
If you ask us, there is no better way to familiarize employees with Workday tools than the context-aware and analytics-driven microlearning platform Whatfix. Click here for a free trial of this tool or sign up for a quick demo to see how it helps your employees stay up to date with enterprise software and thus avoid technostress.
Kirti handles product marketing at Whatfix and has spent about 12 years in the technology industry in go-to-market and product marketing roles. Driven by curiosity and the drive to get things done, at Whatfix she looks for ways to establish and grow the Whatfix platform
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