Often feel the urge to shoot off a quick reply to emails, texts, voicemails – no matter what else is happening around you, or even if you are not at work? You, and your staff, may be facing “workplace telepressure.”
Researchers from Northern Illinois University coined this term upon finding that “preoccupation with responding right away to message-based technologies can have a dark side.”
“Over the past few decades, we’ve seen organisations increasingly rely on email or text messages for conducting business,” said lead author Larissa Barber. “The main benefit is that employees have lots of flexibility about when they can work, including at home.”
“But this flexibility can sometimes have unintended costs. Employees start to feel like they should be available and responsive to work requests at all times. This type of continuous connection does not allow people enough time to recover from work.”
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The biggest cause of workplace telepressure appears to be social cues within a workplace culture, the researchers found. These cues might include misuse or overuse of ‘urgent’ emails, pleas to respond immediately, or apologies over delays in responding when only a few hours have passed.
The second cause may be related to the employee’s personality traits – “conscientious” and “extraversion” being the two most likely ones associated with sensitivity to workplace telepressure.
“A highly conscientious person is likely to respond quickly to an e-mail from a coworker due to a tendency to be responsive and diligent, in pursuit of the achievement of work goals. A highly extraverted worker will feel the need to respond quickly because they seek the social connection,” explains the report.
Another factor driving telepressure, is that it can be conceived as a type of “impression management.” Employees are concerned about their standing in the workplace, which leads them to “actively monitor the impressions that coworkers have of them and use self-presentation strategies to encourage those impressions to be positive.”
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“Organisations may be able to help reduce telepressure by more explicitly encouraging unplugged time,” said co-author Alecia Santuzzi. “Managers also could ease telepressure by decreasing the quantity of messages, perhaps holding back information that can wait for future meetings or face-to-face conversations.”
The authors also suggest that organisations could develop policies on the use of information and communication technology and set expectations.
This may include “specific guidelines regarding response times during work days or weekends, training employees on how to limit message responding and checking, or outlining blackout days or times when employees are not expected to respond.”
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