Technostress: Staying Calm in Today's Virtual Workplace

Technostress July 9, 2020 By: Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann

Technology is allowing teams to work and stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic, but constant technology use can lead to “technostress.” Here’s how to identify and manage this kind of stress and boost your health and happiness on the job and off.

During the coronavirus pandemic, technology has been the lifeline that’s helped organizations and teams stay connected, conduct meetings, share documents, and perform other necessary work tasks. But, as Albert Einstein famously noted, technology cannot be allowed to exceed our humanity.

Constant technology use has potentially negative physical and mental effects, collectively often referred to as “technostress.” There are three main types: adaptation, overload, and isolation. All three can be successfully managed if you follow a few key tips and tactics.

Adaptation

The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the need to adapt to new software and devices. You might have had to upgrade your home routers, computers, phones, and webcams, and learn how to Zoom, chat, exercise, shop, and even receive medical care by using various online platforms—all requiring different passwords, user names, and security protocols.

All this change can cause massive amounts of stress. Some of these techniques can help you minimize it:

  • Limit your new technologies to those most necessary and useful. Save the fun or experimental apps and plug-ins for later.
  • Your organization’s helpdesk is your friend. Reach out often. There’s no need to suffer alone.
  • Learn each new technology in stages. You don’t have to be an expert on each platform overnight. If you keep forgetting to unmute your mic during Zoom meetings, just apologize and keep going.
  • Practice using new tools before important board, member, or partner meetings. This will help you stay calm and contribute to a smoothly run meeting.
Limit your new technologies to those most necessary and useful. Save the fun or experimental apps and plug-ins for later.

Overload

In the past few months, you might have been glued to your devices for news and social updates even more than usual. Being in the know to a high degree might be interesting and rewarding at first, but it usually leads to information overload and fear of what you might be missing. By the end of the workday, you may be exhausted from too much information, the constant onslaught of flickering images, squinting to see your screens, and hunching over your devices.

It could be time for these fixes:

  • Instead of turning to social media or the TV when you take work breaks, do something non-electronic: Walk your dog, sit in your yard, play a few bars on the piano, sip coffee on your patio.
  • Try a new non-electronic hobby.
  • Let go of the mental need to always be connected and reachable.

Isolation

Even though remote workers are connected constantly, the lack of physical closeness can cause feelings of isolation. You might feel anxious about missing emails or texts or about being left out of group chats or video calls. Also, without the full benefit of nonverbal communication, which is much more available in person, people miss nearly 80 percent of communication and are more likely to inaccurately perceive e-messages.

What can you do?

  • Communicate live as often as possible via conference calls, Zoom, or the phone.
  • Create a dedicated workspace where you can concentrate but also feel connected to others. TV or radio in the background can keep you company, as long as it isn’t distracting.
  • Mind your mental health. Laugh, meditate, exercise, breathe.
  • Find ways to socialize online by participating in virtual happy hours, cooking classes, wine tastings, yoga classes, or games.

As the COVID-19 distancing rules relax, you may be among the 75 percent of current teleworkers who say they plan to continue to work remotely—maybe even for the rest of their careers. Understanding and guarding against technostress will continue to be a critical skill for maintaining your well-being.

Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann

Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann, MA, MSMOB, APR, ACC, is president of Designing Communications in Washington, DC.