Pling – that was a new e-mail. Pling – that was the third message on Slack in the last two minutes. Pling – another e-mail, probably a “reply all” to the previous one. Pling – an update on the case you are working on. Pling – the software is finished running the current process. And that pretty much sums up the day for many employees working at a laptop. Constant stimuli, constant expectation to be available throughout the workday, constant need for resilience, learning how to manage new software and ability to jump between tasks or multitask. This is what most of us face every day, without knowing the amount of stress we are constantly under – techno stress.
Every time we are disturbed by a new e-mail, a phone call or any other sudden notification on the computer or phone, we get distracted from what we were doing, and it takes several minutes to turn back to that task and give it full focus. We risk losing time and ability to be effective when reacting to these stimuli immediately and we risk being stressed – especially when we start checking work e-mails from our phone or when we are supposed to be off work e.g. in the evenings, on a Saturday or when we are on a family holiday (let’s face it – we do check our e-mails when we are on holiday!). Where are the boundaries to how available we should be, both as supervisor and subordinate? The way that work has invaded our life through technology and the technostress it causes, is a risk factor for developing stress and burnout.
Some companies have created boundaries to ensure that employees take time off when they are not working. An example of what has been done is shutting down the e-mail after 6 pm every day, so that no e-mails are send – meaning employees won’t received anything until the morning and can enjoy their time off from work! Others have encouraged employees to not sending irrelevant e-mails (“thank you for the reply – was helpful”), to walk the two minutes to ask the colleague face to face in stead or in general reduce stressors and provide resources to support employees. Each organisation needs to find their own best solutions, but it is evident we acknowledge that technology today creates technostress through constant stimuli, constant disturbance and expectations of constant availability and resilience.