You may never have heard of it, but technostress has been around for a while. First defined in 1984, this unique kind of stress relates to the feeling of overwhelm caused by an overload of technology and too much digital interaction.
Humans weren’t designed to spend so much time inside staring at a screen, so it’s no surprise that doing so can have an impact on both mental and physical wellbeing. Even before the pandemic hit, technology overuse was becoming a problem for many, with social media, emails, direct messages, alarms, alerts and constant connectivity making it impossible to switch off.
Over the last few years especially, we’ve been increasingly working outside of office hours and blurring the lines between work and home life. The pandemic has only heightened the issue, making our homes our offices, disrupting routines and damaging our ability to leave work behind on an evening.
When your work devices are constantly present it’s more difficult to leave an email unread or ignore a work chat from a colleague, even late at night. If you’ve recently found yourself totally exhausted after your fourth Zoom call of the day, you’re not alone. Conducting all meetings virtually means that, during the pandemic, we’ve all experienced less time away from the screen than we’re used to in the office.
Increased use of technology in this way can have a powerful physical effect on our bodies, creating feelings of fatigue or anxiety, and impacting job satisfaction and productivity. The need to work from home also has the potential to leave individuals feeling as though their space has been invaded by their work – with no safe haven to escape the demands of the office.
The good news is that there are ways to combat technostress. Taking time to make sure you, and your teams, are getting enough downtime away from the screen is essential to boosting wellbeing and staying productive.
So, what key things can you do to beat technostress? Follow these three steps to make sure you’ve established a balanced WFH routine.
Getting outside is a sure-fire way to minimise the effects of technological overload. Nature has a calming effect, and fresh air with a little activity thrown in will do wonders for your wellbeing. Use your lunchbreak to take a brisk walk – even a short stroll around your local neighbourhood is better than nothing. Doing this every day at a regular time will create a routine, and help you resist the temptation to work through your breaks.
Even if you can’t get out for a walk, make sure you use your breaks to get away from the screen. Pick up a book, have a chat with a family member or just make something nice for lunch – anything that avoids going online or looking at a screen.
Non-verbal interaction is an integral part of communication, and we rely on it more than you might realise. Interacting through a screen can create a sense of unreality, making it harder to feel connected to colleagues. Although turning the camera on for conference calls can add to a feeling of techno-invasion, face–to–face time with workmates will help boost comradery, improve communication and provide a tether to the non-virtual world.
Visual cues that help us to identify when someone intends to start or finish speaking, or judge how engaged others are in the conversation, ensure much more efficient communication. While the temptation to keep the camera off so you can hide in your pyjamas may be strong, a little face time with your team can go a long way.
Face–to–face calls don’t have to be limited to scheduled, work-related meetings though. Working remotely makes it easy to forget the infinite ‘water cooler’ moments that happen every day in the physical workplace. Without a chat over a cup of tea in the kitchen or a catch-up as you pass in the corridor, feelings of isolation can be amplified.
Schedule in the occasional coffee break with your team or other colleagues to make sure everyone has chance to touch base and talk about things other than work. Put wellbeing first, check in with people face to face and enjoy a little mood boost before you get back to your day’s to-do list.
Looking for more advice about implementing a remote working strategy? Explore our archive of WFH tips, tech advice and security considerations.