Technology and Stress at Work

Our comfort level with the technology we use at work will depend on when we entered the workforce. For Baby Boomers, technology like switchboards and IBM Selectric Typewriters are words not even in the vocabulary of Millennials. Technological advances forever changed the way we work – are all of those changes good?

Technology today involves Iphones, e-mail and text messaging, not to mention social media. It is estimated that in 2015 U.S. workers will receive 22 percent and send more that 24 percent business e-mails than they did three years ago. This has a negative impact on workers because

· E-mail is addictive. People can get a rush with every new message and experience withdrawal when they are away from their inbox. The same can be said for text messages.

· E-mail impedes focus when people shift their attention between two activities (responding to e-mail and finishing another task).

· E-mail wastes time when workers have to recover their train of thoughts after e-mail interruptions (Now where was I?).

All of this new technology have blurred the boundary between work and personal time. Lack of boundaries contributes not only to stress but to workplace conflict. Managers are able to reach workers 24/7 and employees are feeling the stress. Success at work is often measured by goals, quotas and objectives that may require more than the standard eight-hour workday. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines job stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.”

What’s an organization to do?

· Encourage employees to go through e-mail at scheduled times, turn off distracting alerts and reply only when necessary. It will help break the addiction.

· Use group discussions or employee surveys to collect information about what contributes to employees’ stress.

· Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions affecting their jobs.

· Make sure managers are clear about communicating expectations and prioritizing tasks so that employees know which are most important and which can wait.

· Set reasonable deadlines.

· Provide resources such as management training and employee assistance programs.

· If feasible for the organization, implement telework.

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