New technologies make our work life easier: routine tasks are automated, data is captured and processed automatically, communication is made simpler, location-independent working is possible, high performing hardware and speedy networks make working a piece of cake – or maybe not?
A new study by the University of Augsburg, supported by the Hans-Bröckler Foundation, focused on the impact of digitalisation on employees and discovered that, for many employees, the use of new technologies in the workplace does not make life easier, but actually makes it hard for them.
To date this study is the most comprehensive representative survey of working people regarding the burden and demands caused by working with digital technologies. Across Germany 2640 employees were interviewed for this study and some of the results are quite surprising. The researchers first asked employees which out of 40 technologies they use at work – starting from landline telephones, to sat nav systems, to artificial intelligence. Then they were asked about feeling of stress, occupational stress, days off sick and the like.
Digital Stress: the Consequences
Digital stress affects all age groups, sectors, regions and types of work. Almost all employees seem to be stressed by digitalisation, but to differing degrees. Consequences of digital stress include back pain, headaches, even sleep disorders. Digital stress also demonstrably reduces job performance and is accompanied with a strong work-life conflict.
Gender and Age Determine the Intensity of Stress
Probably the most astonishing result of the study: It is not older employees, who are overstretched by the new technologies, but those aged 25 – 34 years. In this age group, digital stress is most pronounced. While women rate themselves fitter in digital competences than their male colleagues, it also turns out that the ladies suffer more often from digital stress. This may also be related to the fact that workplaces of female staff have a 16% higher digitalisation level than those of their male colleagues.
Causes of Digital Stress
It is apparent that digital stress has a negative impact on many people. But why does modern technology perform so poorly? More than a third of the employees interviewed (37.5 %) have a high degree of uncertainty with regard to the latest technology. In contrast, only 12.7 % mentioned a high degree of omni- and permanent presence of technology as a disturbing factor; of all the six factors of digital stress this was considered the weakest. The study participants also complained about the unreliability of many technologies, which in turn causes stress.
Modern technologies are indispensable in our work life, hence the more surprising are the negative trends that the study uncovered with regard to the perception of digitalisation in the workplace. What can now be done to avoid digital stress of employees?
Education Helps avoid Digital Stress
The fact, that interviewed employees stated that insecurity is the most significant stress factor when using new technologies, makes it clear that more information has to be provided by the employer. It is not enough to invest in the latest technologies if employees are not supported in their use. Technology, if used without good knowledge, leads to frustration and digital stress of employees, while its potential for more efficiency is not exploited. A tried and tested approach against insecurity and excessive demands on the individual are training seminars during the introduction of new work tools, as well as a help desk, which staff can contact if they have problems with the technology.
Counter Digital Stress: Reduce Complexity
However, digital stress is even more effectively countered when the used technology is both state-of-the art as well as self-explanatory. Through high quality technology employees immediately experience added value and reduced workload, whereby in a best-case-scenario there is no need for training for their use. Highest priority of the technology in use should therefore not only be increased productivity, but absolute user-friendliness. The project manager of the study, Prof. Dr. Henner Gimpel also pleads for a thought-out application. It is about using “digital technologies moderately, and optimised individually, to provide support and emphasise their reliability when designing the technology.“
Avoid Digital Stress with the oneclick™ Platform
Absolute clarity has been the aim of oneclick AG for the development of their central platform for the provisioning and distribution of software applications and data. Complexity of the user interface and IT infrastructure is significantly reduced as employees can access all data and applications needed for their work from any device using a browser. The digital workspaces from oneclick™ guarantee absolute simplicity, productivity, offer the foundation for a better work-life-balance through mobile working, and prevent the emergence of digital stress.
- https://www.fim-rc.de/wp-content/uploads/Gimpel_et_al_2018_Digitaler_Stress_in_Deutschland_ final.pdf
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