Remote work is not going anywhere. According to Gartner, 82% of surveyed organizations 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 recognize the symptoms of technostress and address the issues it can cause. We’ll walk you through the different types and causes and discuss their negative effects and how you can prevent them from happening in your team.
What Is Technostress?
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.
Types & Causes of Technostress
Whether employees are working from home or in an office, there are five overarching causes of work-related technostress:
- Techno-overload: Feeling overwhelmed by a constant stream of information. It occurs as a result of continuous messages and notifications coming in from multiple sources.
- Techno-invasion: The feeling of being “always on.” It results from receiving other work-related notifications after hours and feeling the need to respond right away. Remote workers cite the inability to switch off or disconnect as a top concern.
- Techno-complexity: This occurs when an employee struggles to adopt new technology because they perceive it to be especially complicated.
- Techno-uncertainty: Feeling disoriented or unsure because of fast-paced digital transformation. If a company continually adopts new technology or uses software that updates often, it can be overwhelming for some employees to keep up.
- Techno-insecurity: This involves concern from employees that they will lose their job or status because new technology will replace or change their position.
It’s important to watch for these techno-stressors among your team, as the effects can be serious.
The Impacts of Technostress on Remote Teams
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:
- Cognitive issues: Like other types of stress, technostress invokes the body’s stress-response system. A two-year study found that high IT demands led to cognitive problems like trouble concentrating or remembering things and poor decision-making.
- Behavioural impacts: Technostress can lead to changes in behaviour, including low initiative and low energy.
- Reduced productivity: The constant interruptions caused by techno-overload are especially bad for productivity. According to Deloitte, it takes 15-23 minutes to get back to productivity after an interruption. Techno-complexity also affects productivity. The employee needs extra time to figure out the new technology, which impacts their work rate overall.
- Burnout: Job burnout is when an employee feels emotionally exhausted or disillusioned with their work. Multiple studies link work-related stress with higher rates of burnout. Remote workers often feel the need to be “always on,” which can increase the likelihood of burnout.
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.
4 Strategies to Prevent Technostress in Your Organization
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.
1. Encourage Employees Not to Be “Always On”
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’re managing a 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.
2. Identify Time-Consuming Distractions
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.
3. Introduce New Technology Gradually
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— focusing on self-paced learning, instructor-led learning, 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.
4. Implement a Digital Adoption Platform
One way to reduce techno-complexity and techno-uncertainty, both significant causes of technostress, is to implement a digital adoption platform – also known as a 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.
Discover how Whatfix’s Digital Adoption Platform can help your organization create continuous employee training and development programs with in-app guidance, personalized workflows, and self-help knowledge bases.