Technostress: A Quick Guide for Employers
Be thoughtful when driving technology changes
Even before COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) hit and sent millions of people home to work, the popularity of remote work was rising. Nearly 5 million U.S. employees, including those in associations, worked from home in February, an increase of 44 percent since 2015.
The benefits of remote work—increases in job satisfaction, productivity, work-life balance, job longevity, better health, and even higher salaries—are why 43 percent of full-time American employees say they want to continue working remotely even once the social distancing rules have lifted.
Many consider technology the miracle that is keeping associations and other organizations alive during this pandemic. But constant technology use can have potential negative physical and mental effects, phenomena collectively referred to as “technostress.”
This quick guide explains the main types of technostress—adaptation, overload and isolation—and provides some practical strategies you can deploy to combat them.
The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated our need to adapt to new technologies. We might have had to upgrade our home and office routers and networks, computers, and webcams, and learn how to Zoom, chat, instruct, shop or entertain our teams using various platforms. All of these have unique passwords, usernames and security protocols. Taken together, these tools can cause extreme amounts of stress against the backdrop of this unprecedented crisis.
You can minimize this stress by using some of these techniques:
- Make sure your association’s helpdesk is able to respond quickly to employees’ requests.
- Introduce new technologies slowly and incrementally.
- Offer multiple training sessions at various times of day, with live help available.
- Check in frequently to be sure adaptation is going smoothly for employees.
- Choose IT systems and technologies that require the least amount of change.
- Communicate often with your employees, using technologies that are effective for workers of different generations. Baby boomers might be more open to email newsletters or Facebook; Gen X and millennials likely will respond best to texts, video, or other social media.
During this pandemic, employees might be glued to their devices even more than usual—to receive news updates, check in on friends and family and access entertainment. By the end of the workday, they are probably exhausted from processing so much information.
It could be time for these fixes:
- Make it clear that you don’t expect your employees to be connected 24/7, and don’t create deadlines that require working around the clock.
- Create a team of well-being ambassadors, who can be alert to signs of employees’ disengagement or mental distress. These signals may include not showing up to video meetings—or if they do, not contributing or speaking—or displaying other behaviors unusual for them.
People who are isolated by remote work can suffer significant decreases in feelings of well-being, which can reduce employee engagement and, subsequently, productivity and retention. Engagement is already suffering in U.S. workplaces—only 15 percent of U.S. employees are engaged, according to various sources.
What can employers and supervisors do?
- Instill a culture of kindness, listening, and noticing. This is more difficult remotely, so it might require specific training.
- Assign each employee a mentor to be sure they are engaged. In a remote work environment, this will happen mostly through online check-ins.
- Turn your real-world communities into virtual ones. These can include employee resource groups and work-related teams.
- Create your association’s version of the old-school water cooler. Google Hangout, Slack, or video services like Skype or Zoom work well.
- Don’t rely on your intranet as the default employee connector. These are often difficult to navigate. Add text, chat, and IM options, and know what works for your employees.
Your association might be among the 41 percent of global businesses that offered some degree of remote working before COVID-19 struck. The technology changes you’re making to conform to the distancing rules are likely to be needed for a long time: 75 percent of current teleworkers say they plan to continue to work remotely, maybe even for the rest of their careers. Managing employee well-being by taking steps to reduce technostress can boost the overall health of your workplace now and in the long-term new normal.
About the author:
Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann, MA, MSMOB, ACC, APR, is a communication, engagement and organization development executive and coach at Designing Communication in Washington, D.C. This article originally appeared on ASAE's Center for Research. OSAE thanks ASAE for their commitment to strengthening the association community and its members' business acumen. Please select this link to read the article as it originally appeared on ASAE's website.