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Technostress is the negative psychological link between people and the introduction of new technologies. Where ergonomics is the study of how humans react to and physically fit with machines in their environment, technostress is a result of altered habits of work and collaboration that are being brought about due to the use of modern information technologies at office and home situations.
People experience technostress when they cannot adapt to or cope with information technologies in a healthy manner. They feel compulsive about being connected and sharing constant updates, feel forced to respond to work-related information in real-time, and engage in almost habitual multi-tasking. They feel compelled to work faster because information flows faster, and have little time to spend on sustained thinking and creative analysis.
Craig Brod, a leader in the field of technostress research, states that technostress is "...a modern disease of adaptation caused by an inability to cope with the new computer technologies in a healthy manner." Some of the earliest technostress scholarly studies in the field of Management Information Systems show that technostress is an undesirable phenomenon spawned by use of computing and communication devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones. It is dependent on gender, age and computer literacy. Women experience lower technostress than men, older people experience less technostress at work than younger people and those with greater computer literacy experience lower technostress.
Symptoms and outcomes
Psychological stress can manifest itself physically. Similarly there are a number of symptoms of technostress. One symptom of technostress is anxiety. Anxiety can appear as: irritability, headaches, backaches, eye strain, neck pain, stiff shoulder, joint pains, mental fatigue, depression, nightmares, panic, resistance, and a feeling of helplessness. The anxiety expressed by those experiencing technostress: insomnia, loss of temper, irritability, frustration and can increase errors in judgement and poor job performance if not dealt with.
In the 21st century, people equipped with technology at the workplace are most especially those experiencing technostress. People are sitting and facing computer monitors for a longer time which results in physical strain. In the 21st century work environment, people spend eight hours and more a day at work because it is critical to their security and job satisfaction. However, these demands are becoming increasingly hazardous to their health. In a technological world, providing people with appropriate and safe physical environment is a necessity. Too much exposure to computer monitors is associated with emotional stress, and people are emotionally affected by technostress in their workplaces.
Consequences of technostress include decreased job satisfaction, organizational commitment and productivity. A periodic assessment is necessary to check the level of technostress affecting professionals especially the physical and emotional aspects. Managers should organize technology-based trainings for employees to make them comfortable with technologies and awareness of their harmful effects. Technology skills for employees are important to consistently update their technological skills. Institutions, companies, and agencies are needed to employ IT specialists and troubleshooters to maximize system accessibility and provide a level of comfort to the employee.
The causes of technostress amount to:
- the quick pace of technological change
- lack of proper training
- an increased workload
- lack of standardization within technologies
- the reliability of hardware and software
Four Aspects of Technostress:
- Physical aspects are eye strain, backaches, headaches, stiff shoulders, neck pain, joint pain, dry mouth and throat, muscle tension, stomach discomfort, keyboard related injuries, chest pain, rapid heart rate, irritable bowel syndrome, increased blood pressure, difficulty in breathing, and others.
- Emotional aspects like irritability, loss of temper, having a high state of anxiety when separated from a computer monitor, feelings of indifference, frustration, lack of appreciation, depression, guilt, feeling fearful, paranoia that leads to avoiding computers, negative attitudes and others.
- Behavioral aspects consists of feeling overly comfortable with computers, overspending on computers, insomnia, uncooperativeness and unwillingness, using computer terms in non-computer conversation, smoking, social withdrawal in favor of terminal time, cruising computer stores, drinking alcohol, and so on.
- Psychological aspects are composed of information overload in order to find, analyze, evaluate, and apply it in the right context with resources, underwork and routine jobs lead to frustrations when underemployed or when the work done involves only routine operations, job security, where people have a fear that computers may replace human roles, professional jealousy produced by technological competency, de-motivation due to prolonged periods of any technological activity, uncertainty about job role caused by an increased time working with technology.
There are five conditions that are classified as "technostress creators":
- "Techno-overload" describes situations where use of computers forces people to work more and work faster.
- "Techno-invasion" describes being “always exposed” where people can potentially be reached anywhere and any time and feel the need to be constantly connected. The regular work-day is extended, office work is done at all sorts of hours, and it is almost impossible to "cut away".
- "Techno-complexity" describes situations where the complex computer systems used at work force people to spend time and effort in learning and understanding how to use new applications and to update their skills. People find the variety of applications, functions, and jargon intimidating and consequently feel stressed.
- "Techno-insecurity" is associated with situations where people feel threatened about losing their jobs to other people who have a better understanding of new gadgets and computing devices.
- "Techno-uncertainty" relates to short life cycles of computer systems. Continuing changes and upgrades do not give people a chance to acquire experience with a particular system. People find this unsettling because their knowledge becomes rapidly outdated and they are required to re-learn things very rapidly and often.
Technostress can be dealt with by:
- Getting adequate, user friendly software
- Creating better communication within the environment
- Creating a level of reassurance, patience, and stability within the environment
- Maintaining an ever-present system of training and education to new and old technologies
- Avoid using technology
- Fostering sharing of computer related knowledge within the organization
- A responsive and easily reached help-desk can allay managers’ anxiety and concerns, guide them in using and familiarizing with new computer applications and assure them in case of problems
- Keeping employees “involved” in the general scheme of things in the context of new computer systems. The more involved and familiar they are, the less techno - stressed they would be
- Encouraging people to “experiment” and innovate in the context of computer use
- Encouraging employees to communicate, discuss, and share their knowledge about computers
Ways to eliminate technostress are:
- Conducting stress management activities to lessen and eliminate the problem of technostress
- Exercises, like deep breathing, and yoga or tai chi
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Staying healthy and having a proper diet
- Taking frequent breaks
- Listening to music
- Staying calm
- Maintaining a sense of humor
- Getting counseling
- Effective time management
- Job rotation
- Taking a technology time-out
- Establishing a teamwork relationship
- Balancing positive and negative thoughts
- Having an awareness of technostress
- Using positive self talk and recognize that technostress is natural
Notes and references
- Sami, Lalitha Krishna; Iffat, Rabia (2010). "Impact of Electronic Services on Users: A Study". JLIS.it. University of Florence. 1 (2). doi:10.4403/jlis.it-4523. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
- Brod, Craig. Technostress: The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution. Reading, Mass: Addison Weslety, 1984.
- Tarafdar, M., Ragu-Nathan, T.S., Ragu-Nathan, B. and Tu, Q., The Impact of Technostress on Productivity, Journal of Management Information Systems, Summer 2007
- Ragu-Nathan, T.S., Tarafdar, M., Ragu-Nathan, B. and Tu, Q., Consequence of Technostress in End Users: Conceptual Development and Empirical Validation, Information Systems Research, December 2008, 19, 4, 417-433.
- Tarafdar, M, Tu, Q., Ragu-Nathan, T.S and Ragu-Nathan, B.S. Crossing over to the “Dark Side”: Examining Creators, Inhibitors and Outcomes of Technostress, Communications of the ACM (Contributed Research Article), September 2011.
- Maier, C., Laumer, S., Eckhardt, A., and Weitzel, T. Giving too much Social Support: Social Overload on Social Networking Sites, European Journal of Information Systems (EJIS). doi: 10.1057/ejis.2014.3.
- Ennis, Lisa A. "The Evolution of Technostress." Computers in Libraries, Sept. 2005, 10-12.
- Bachiller, R. T. (2001): Technostress among library staff and patrons of the U. P. Diliman libraries. University of the Philippines, Diliman.
- Caguiat, C.A. (2001): Effects of stress and burnout on librarians in selected academic libraries in Metro Manila. University of the Philippines, Diliman.
- Dimzon, S. (2007): Technostress among PAARL members and their management strategies: a basis for a staff development program. PUP, Manila.
- Riedl, R., Kindermann, H., Auinger, A., Javor, A. (2012): Technostress From a Neurobiological Perspective: System Breakdown Increases the Stress Hormone Cortisol in Computer Users. Business & Information Systems Engineering, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 61–69.
- Riedl, R. (2013). On the Biology of Technostress: Literature Review and Research Agenda. The DATABASE for Advances in Information Systems, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 18–55.
- Riedl, R., Kindermann, H., Auinger, A., Javor, A. (2013): Computer Breakdown as a Stress Factor during Task Completion under Time Pressure: Identifying Gender Differences Based on Skin Conductance. Advances in Human-Computer Interaction, Volume 2013, Article ID 420169.
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