Posted by Dr. Stephanie Moynihan on September 7, 2023
Dr. Stephanie Moynihan

Flexibility takes the cake when it comes to the perks that employees love, with organizations embracing flexible locations, hours, and time off. But despite the advantages, remote and hybrid workplaces, made possible with the use of technology, can bring with them a dark cloud: technostress.

As a physician and Associate Medical Director at Dialogue, I have witnessed the toll that our ever-increasing use of technology can take on our mental well-being. The stress and psychological impact is growing both in our personal lives and in the workplace. And it’s a serious concern.

Listen to Dr. Stephanie Moynihan’s interview about technostress with CityNews Toronto.


What is technostress? 

Simply put, technostress is stress caused by the overuse of technology, especially information platforms and modern communication tools such as email, text messaging, and video calls. 

These technologies, while highly beneficial and an integral part of our daily lives, can contribute to technostress when their use becomes excessive or intrusive, leading to a sense of being always connected and reachable. 

This not only creates a lot of pressure in our personal lives, but also starts blurring the boundaries between work and home life as well, with employees struggling to disconnect. The fast pace of evolving digital changes also creates stress from the constant need to adapt and keep up.

People are spending more time connected to their laptops, smartphones, and other devices than ever. And with the rise of technostress, both employers and employees are dealing with:


Impact of technology on work-life

Technology puts pressure on employees to work harder and faster – even when they’re not technically working. As the lines between work and home continue to blur, workers often feel compelled to be constantly connected. In fact, 35% feel like they're expected to work during their time off. The situation becomes more concerning as 25% of employees are requested by their managers to work during vacations – and another quarter is constantly receiving work messages.

While managers may celebrate employees’ increased availability, they also need to consider the potential negative effects, which can be long-lasting. Stress and fatigue caused by technology can lead to: 

  • Insomnia

  • Depressive symptoms

  • Feelings of indifference

  • Irritability

  • Information overload

  • Job insecurity and dissatisfaction

  • Alcohol and substance use

  • Physical symptoms like eye strain, back pain, and headaches

These symptoms make it harder for employees to focus, resulting in loss of productivity or presenteeism. Eventually, this may lead to absenteeism, where time away from work is needed. 


Addressing the effects of technostress

The constant and overwhelming use of technology is a problem. And once we've acknowledged it, we can start trying to solve it. To tackle this, we need to find ways to maximize breaks from technology and set clear boundaries. For a lot of folks who work remotely, these simple tips can help make the psychological switch between work life and personal life easier:

  • Use separate devices for work and personal activities.

  • Dress for your workday and swap outfits when you’re done.

  • Do something that signals the end of work, like taking a short walk. 

  • Keep work-related items, such as laptops and files, out of sight.

  • Clarify your expected work hours with your employer and set your limits. (For example, setting an away message during your off-hours.)

Strategies to minimize the use of technology during the day for everyone can also include:

  • Taking tech-free microbreaks during the day.

  • Using pen and paper for notes.

  • Leaving your phone in a different room during meetings (even when turned off, our phones still have the power to distract us if they are nearby!)

On the employer side, the move to remote and hybrid models requires us to have clear guidelines on new expectations. For instance, leadership can emphasize that employees don't need to read or respond to emails during their personal time.

To boost team well-being, managers can employ other simple yet impactful strategies. 

  • Ending meetings a few minutes early allows team members to take valuable breaks.

  • Avoiding back-to-back meetings provides necessary breathing room.

  • Fostering face-to-face interactions without digital distractions cultivates a more engaging and productive space.

  • Schedule pre-written emails and messages to send during work hours.

  • Ensure employees are properly trained in the technology they need to use for their jobs, and employ change-management strategies to avoid information overload.

  • Encourage employees to talk about technostress and use available health and wellness benefits when needed.


Selecting the right support

To truly demonstrate their commitment to workplace well-being and mental health, employers can actively support and promote healthy habits among their members. Providing wellness programs or educational resources on well-being is crucial to combatting technostress. Encouraging employees to engage in daily movement, meditation, healthy eating, and quality time with loved ones can greatly assist in managing stress levels effectively.

Studies show that dedicating just 150 minutes per week to exercise can significantly decrease the risk of stress and depression. So, when it comes to wellness programs, employers should provide accessible options that encourage high utilization. 

Wellness programs are increasingly evolving towards a more proactive approach, focusing on prevention rather than just dealing with existing issues. This means the right program can help employees manage technostress before it becomes overwhelming.

In the larger context, embracing a proactive approach is crucial to yielding the most significant impacts in the long run. Employers can cultivate a vibrant health-positive company culture by:

  • Implementing employee fitness challenges

  • Promoting the development of healthy habits

  • Leading by example 

Enabling members to track their overall well-being levels through stress questionnaires or scores can also inspire them to put health first. Plus, it equips managers with valuable insights into how the workforce is feeling. By offering such programs, organizations encourage employees to stay alert when it comes to mental health issues like technostress - so that they’re empowered to recognize it and overcome it.

Topics: Health and Wellness