Techno-stress refers to the psychologically negative effects of continued exposure to ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies), such as smartphones, tablets, computers, etc., which usually occur in the workplace. It is a concept, actually, coined in 1984 by Craig Brod , although over the years its definition has been specified to adapt it to the circumstances of working with ICTs.
There are various situations that can lead us to develop techno-stress, but in general it refers to a mismatch between the use we need to make of them and the resources, personal or professional, that we have. Thus, for example, if a person has to learn in a short time to use new technologies , or new programs to perform tasks at work , they are at greater risk of developing this type of stress. It also occurs in people who have to work long hours using a computer or tablet, or in those who are required to perform higher than they can afford, and this involves the use of new technologies.
It is common for techno-stress to occur in professions such as communication, science and technology, or finance and administration: disciplines in which a large part of the working day has to be carried out with the use of ICTs. This especially happens where there is an overload of digital information, or when you have to work very quickly or with short deadlines. For example, if we think of the professions in the field of communication, such as journalism , where it is the first medium to publish information, and it must be constantly updated. It also occurs with tasks that are too routine and with little concentration, such as filling in databases on the computer.
The Telework is also an area where a higher risk of developing tecnoestrés and suffer the consequences, or if workers and freelance workers or self joins the workload that accompanies this kind of professions. Therefore, techno-stress is classified as a psychosocial risk in the field of Occupational Risk Prevention .
Types of techno-stress
There are different types of techno-stress, depending on the negative reaction that the worker has to exposure to new technologies, defined in the NTP. 730 of the National Institute of Safety and Hygiene at Work (INSHT):
– Techno – anxiety . The person feels a great emotional discomfort at the possibility of using ICTs, being often seen as poorly trained to use a computer, tablet, etc., or any specific computer program. He rejects ICTs, thinking about their use generates tension. A specific type would be technophobia, which is the total fear or rejection of ICTs.
– Technofatigue . It refers to the mental fatigue derived from overexposure to ICTs, and is related to the overload of information that may be being accessed. One of its symptoms is the difficulty to structure the information received by digital means.
– Technoaddiction . It is the need to be constantly connected to ICTs, depending on them and always wanting to be up to date with technological advances. It leads to compulsive ICT use behaviors, which cannot be controlled.
Consequences of techno-stress
Some of the consequences of stress derived from the use of ICTs are physical, such as muscle aches , sleep disturbances, headaches or gastrointestinal conditions. Also, as we said previously, they generate rejection of new technologies, mental exhaustion, and can lead to Burnout syndrome , also known as burnout syndrome at work. At the organizational level, it also has implications for the worker’s performance, as well as consequences for their job satisfaction or generating greater absenteeism. Of course, social isolation is also a consequence.
What to do if you suspect you have techno-stress
Surely, when reading many of the questions that we present here, you have felt identified or identified with some of them. In that case, you can either try to reduce the consequences of that stress, or discuss this with other people in your work environment. Does your company have an Occupational Risk Prevention department? Human resources management? Can you discuss this with one of your superiors? Intervention at the company level is crucial to reduce techno-stress , and for this there are numerous professional manuals for experts, such as on the INSHT website. Sometimes it is necessary to change the equipment (for example, if your work computer is too slow, makes it very difficult to perform and do tasks on time), or the design of the position, as well as the environment (it is important that the table, chair and disposition of the equipment comply with ergonomic standards and avoid the use of uncomfortable postures, lack of light, etc.).
When a job requires too great an exposure to ICTs , or an overload in tasks or a very high work rate, the problem is not that the job must adapt to market requirements, but rather that there is a lack of jobs. work to be covered. For example, in the field of journalism, it could be that a person must publish a lot of information in a short time , but it is not because being a journalist in an online newspaper implies being the fastest, but rather that to cover the needs, more people would be needed to publish. And, although it sounds naive, in the end it is for that right to occupational health that must be fought for, and today the greatest competition in companies is to reduce expenses at the expense of workers’ health .
On the other hand, if you are freelance or self-employed, or there is no way to change your exposure to ICTs because you cannot fight in your work, some things can be done:
– Rest 5-10 minutes every hour . Get up from the chair and walk around a bit. It is also recommended that every 20 minutes, you look away from the screen for 20 seconds and look at something that is about 6 meters away, more or less (eye doctor advice).
– Perform relaxation techniques when you get home that help you reduce the physiological activation derived from the working day.
– When you do a task that does not need ICT, opt for the old method (perhaps our task list does not need to be on the computer and we can use a paper agenda).
– Try to keep in touch with other people , even digitally.
Do some kind of moderate exercise outside of work: walking, gymnastics, yoga, Pilates …
– Organize and plan all the aspects of your work that you can, to avoid sometimes being exposed to ICTs without having to. For example, in the dead times, surely you have found yourself reading the newspaper on the internet or social networks.
– Always try to have your workplace well lit and comfortable, as far as you can, and if not, ask for the workplace to be adapted to avoid muscle damage.
First of all, remember that techno-stress is not your fault , neither because of the way you work with new technologies, nor because of your lack of adaptation or updating with respect to them, nor because you do not know how to face these types of situations. It is a psychosocial risk, that is, it is related to the work environment and it is from the person-organization relationship where you must work.