The Impact of Technology on Workplace Stress
Claire Belisle Mr. Elgin Management 331 13 April 2003
The Impact of Technology on Workplace Stress
What is stress? “Stress is tension from extraordinary demands, constraints, or opportunities” (Organizational Behavior 165). There are many factors in our daily lives that cause stress, but how does technology affect stress? Does it affect it positively or negatively? Is there anything unethical about the technology and the way it is utilized? Through an exploration of Company A, one will see both the positive and negative impacts of technology on workplace stress and discover some of the underlying ethical issues involved.
Company A utilizes various types of technology, from pagers and cell phones to personal computers and numerous types of technical software. In the article, “Workplace Depression Blamed on IT Stress”, David Wiliamson states, “Technology designed to help people work efficiently is now forcing employees into a state of ‘digital depression’ ” (Williamson 9). In the article, Williamson also refers to a study done by Dr. Peter Honey in which Honey states, “Employees don’t feel they can escape anymore” (9).
Within Company A, employees and subcontractors utilize cell phones, pagers, radios, and e-mail. As such, employees are rarely unavailable and it is not uncommon to be interrupted during one’s lunch hour. While this inability to “escape” may cause stress, these same types of technology can assist in relieving stress. For those who travel, cell phones can provide a feeling of safety since help can be a phone call away when one’s car breaks down. E-mail and cell phones can both assist in keeping one in touch with the office. For working parents, there is comfort in knowing that one’s children or family will always be able to have contact in case of emergency. Each of these uses can assist in the reduction of stress.
Anne Mulcahy, Chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation, identifies another factor regarding technology that may increase stress. In an article published by Business Wire, Mulcahy is quoted as saying, “Technology has overwhelmed us with documents…they are a hidden and often misunderstood aspect of business cost, productivity and infrastructure” (5066). Within Company A, the production of documents is an ongoing process. There are contracts, change orders, billings, pay requests, letters, memos, reports and various other documents that need to be created. Once created, originals, copies and computer files must be properly filed and stored, which makes for more work that can create stress.
Another technological factor that can cause stress is computers and computer software. Within the last year, several upgrades to the computer network and software systems have been implemented at Company A. While upgrades to the accounting software have reduced stress caused by software errors in the form of interrupted postings, technological upgrades have been needed at some of the workstations, which have increased stress caused by slow computer response time.
With employees at Company A relying more and more on the technology offered by computers, coordination of computer support has become another factor increasing stress among some employees. Through the use of software such as Outlook, the network administrators are able to schedule work that is needed on computers within the office such as memory upgrades and software installation. The same software enables them to keep an outside computer consultant informed of issues needing his assistance, which can aid in the reduction of stress felt by the network administrators caused by having to keep track of all the issues.
So, with all these technological advances, are there any underlying ethical issues involved? Further exploration of Company A reveals that there is widespread use of the Internet among employees. Although there is some business use of the Internet, the majority of the use is for personal reasons – accessing personal e-mail, planning vacations, etc. This begs the question, “Is it ethical for employees to spend company time pursuing personal interests?” While it appears unethical, David Williamson notes that Euryn Williams advises, “One of the worst things a company can do is to forbid employees to surf the web for leisure” (9). Williamson further notes that a survey of U.S. employees “who had access to the Internet both at work and at home surfed the web for 3.7 hours per week in the office, but compensated for that by spending 5.9 hours of their leisure time on work-related projects” (9).
Further substantiation that use of the Internet is not entirely detrimental comes from the article “War News Distracts Workers.” Authors Karin Rives and Vicki Lee Parker note, “The outbreak of war, like any other crisis, has a way of slowing work in many offices and factories” (par. 5). The authors cite radios and the Internet as distracting employees while keeping the employees informed of world events, but also recommend allowing employees to stay informed as a way of reducing stress. They suggest giving “workers a few extra minutes to catch up on world events” (par. 29).
Continued exploration of the ethics involved again focuses on use of the Internet. While management at Company A realizes that limiting Internet access for employees can be counterproductive, it can also be noted that the ethical standards and morals of management can be seen in the restrictions placed on that usage. Through software installed on the network, management has effectively eliminated employees from accessing sites offering pornographic materials.
While technological advances can be seen as detrimental to the work environment by creating stress in the work place, it can also be seen as having created greater and more efficient ways of doing business. Through a review of the technology utilized by Company A and the ethics involved, it can be seen that there have been both positive and negative impacts to the stress levels of employees. As employees “surf the net” on the job, management has found the need to limit access to certain sites for moral and ethical reasons, but realizes that access to information regarding world events aids in reducing stress. As David Williamson again quotes Euryn Williams, “It’s about seeing the technology as an opportunity rather than a threat” (9).
Rives, Karin and Vicki Lee Parker. “War News Distracts Workers.” Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. ITEM03082009. (2003). Infotrac. University of Phoenix Online Collection. 9 April 2003. Keywords: Workplace Technology Stress.
University of Phoenix, ed. Organizational Behavior. 7th ed. University of Phoenix custom edition e-text. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002. MGT331 – Organizational Behavior. Resource. University of Phoenix. 7 April 2003 <https://mycampus.phoenix.edu/secure/resource/resource.asp>
Williamson, David. “Workplace Depression Blamed on IT Stress.” Western Mail. 452.80 (2003): 9. Proquest. University of Phoenix Online Collection. 9 April 2003. Keywords: Workplace Technology Stress.
“Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy Tells High-Tech Leaders the New World Order Requires a New Work Order.” Business Wire. (2003): 5066. Infotrac. Univeristy of Phoenix Online Collection. 9 April 2003. Keywords: Workplace Technology Stress.