Presented by GIBS

High Tech, High Stress

 ·7 May 2024

Navigation, calculation, information, organisation, relaxation. These diverse human needs are increasingly being fulfilled by just one device.

We reach for our smartphones multiple times a day and virtually tick off an ever-growing number of demands. According to global data and intelligence company Statista, apps are becoming a part of our hourly, not just daily, working lives.

Their research reveals that the top five most common app categories include business, education, and utilities, with productivity and finances making it into the top ten.

The average person uses nine apps daily and about 30 apps over a month. These apps need downloading, updating, syncing, personalising, tracking, and managing, before their intended use has even been solicited and appreciated.

This pressure that is distinct to our electronically governed lives has become so commonplace that it’s referred to as technostress.

The term was coined by clinical psychologist Craig Brod. In his book Technostress: The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution Brod describes it as the inability to cope or deal with new information and communication technologies in a healthy manner.

“This disease may manifest itself in the struggle to accept computer technology, and by overidentification with computer technology.”

Technostress is on the rise due to the ubiquity of electronics, and the rapid pace and adoption of technological advancements such as email, AI, virtual meetings, and cloud computing.

Minds are not machines

Just as the devices around us are able to do more, people are also falling prey to the idea of maximising capacity. One of the ways to do this is multitasking, which is performing several independent but concurrent tasks.

Computers may be able to do so, but humans often compromise the intended goal of efficiency by multitasking.

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking in general leads to decreased productivity and increased errors. According to researchers, this is because the human brain is not as effective at handling multiple tasks simultaneously as it is at focusing on one task at a time.

The human brain cannot match the processing speed of technology. In today’s fast-paced workplaces, information flows rapidly, compelling people to work faster.

However, this pressure can compromise the quality of work, reducing time for deep, creative thinking and leading to superficial analysis and burnout.

The concept that faster isn’t always better, in the context of work and decision-making, relates to “System 1” and “System 2” thinking from Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

System 1 is fast, automatic, and intuitive, responsible for quick judgments based on limited information, and suitable for routine tasks.

System 2 is slow, deliberate, and analytical, more reliable for making thoughtful decisions and solving complicated problems.

Balancing the two systems is crucial for effective decision-making and problem-solving. It’s essential to know when to react quickly and when to take time to think things through.

Human needs, such as rest, recovery, and downtime, are valid. Organisations can create physically and technologically safe environments to counter technostress.

This includes ergonomic furniture, adequate lighting, supportive tools to reduce eye strain and injuries, ongoing training, and support for effective technology management.

Recent studies have identified four factors influencing how employees adapt to new technologies.

These include technology acceptance and adoption, perceptions and attitudes toward technological change, skills and training, and workplace adaptability, which is an important psychological resource for positive adaptation to technological changes.

Article by Dr. Frank Magwegwe

This article first appeared in GIBS Acumen Magazine 47.

Click here to discover more transforming presentations by Dr. Frank Magwegwe.

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