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Workingmums.co.uk talks to Professor Raffaele Filieri about his research into technostress during the pandemic and what works to combat it.
Raffaele Filieri is a Professor of Digital Marketing at Audencia Business School, a French grande école and business school based in Nantes. He has just published research on our increased use of digital technologies for both work and leisure during the COVID pandemic.
workingmums.co.uk: What has your research found about the advantages and new uses of technology during the pandemic?
Prof Raffaele Filieri: Many studies have shown that remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic enabled workers to spend more time with their family, as well as reducing transportation costs and time.
Simultaneously, there was an uptake of digital platform use for personal reasons. Working from home became the new normal for many people.
This situation has generated a debate about the productivity and well-being of workers.
WMs: What is technostress?
RF: Technostress is a kind of stress experienced by an individual due to their overuse of technology. Technostress can lead to psychological as well as physiological reactions, such as techno-exhaustion and reduced wellbeing.
During the pandemic, people have had to manage various digital platforms and applications while simultaneously balancing their work, familial and social commitments. Furthermore, digital platforms used for personal and social purposes exposed users to excessive, contradictory and confusing information that can also increase stress.
WMs: Who did you interview for the study and what was the conclusion?
RF: People interviewed in our sample included people with jobs in the education industry and other sectors (for instance, construction, financial services and real estate). 63% of participants were female, 53% were aged 30 years and above, and there was an equal percentage of single people and couples.
There were two data collections and they were carried out during the first lockdown (towards the end of it) and after it. All respondents had a job, 95% full time, while 5% were self-employed.
The study results prove that technostress occurred because individuals ‘binge’ used technology during the pandemic either for work but also for information and entertainment purposes (because they could not entertain themselves differently). Technology intruded into their private life all of a sudden.
Many people were forced to learn how to use new working-from-home technology, and since they were not used to it, they felt stressed, and spent a lot of time learning how to use it. This caused stress from excessive technology use. This excessive consumption of digital platforms has made people feel overwhelmed by technology.
WMs: Did some people suffer more than others?
RF: The study results also show that employees with previous remote working experience coped better with technostress during the lockdown (because they had already experienced it and they did not have to use many new technologies and/or create a new workspace), whereas individuals who were not used to working remotely or from home developed a heightened level of technostress as they were suddenly forced to do so.
As resilience has always been considered something positive – in enabling the regulation of stress and the impact of related exhaustion on an individual’s wellbeing, our research confirms the relevance and importance of developing resilience in a time of crisis to deal with the impact of technostress.
WMs: Didn’t the always-on culture pre-date Covid and what can we do to avoid technostress?
RF: The always-on culture already existed pre-Covid, but the Covid lockdown exacerbated it. However, as IT is only going to become increasingly essential to our everyday lives, it is important to learn “IT distancing”, both at work and on a personal level. This will become more important in the post-COVID era as working from home is now the “new normal” in many sectors and long working hours for people working from home is the trend. This new norm exposes individuals to constant use of technology for both work and personal use, meaning that it will reinforce the value of learning “IT distancing” well into the future.
Organisations could further adopt appropriate human resource policies to discourage the use of email and other forms of communication (WhatsApp, text messaging, and voice calls. Zoom and Microsoft Teams) outside office hours. Measures should also be put in place to help employees deal with work pressure and time management issues so that they do not feel overwhelmed and obliged to work outside office hours. Finally, considering the extraordinary impact of the pandemic, managers should show flexibility and strong empathy in dealing with employees, many of whom are experiencing problems or even calamity far beyond work-technology stressors and challenges.