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How to tackle workplace tech-induced stress and cyberslacking

How to tackle workplace tech-induced stress and cyberslacking


Organisations must implement tailored training programmes and focus on building an inclusive culture, advised Professor Christy M. K. Cheung of Hong Kong Baptist University.

The ubiquitous usage of technology in the workplace can be a double-edged sword – it can enable efficiency and connectivity at all levels; on the other hand, stress induced by workplace technologies (technostress) can also bring counter effect and unproductive behaviour patterns.

According to the latest research conducted by Professor Christy M. K. Cheung of the Department of Management, Marketing and Information Systems at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), technostress can strain employees' work-life balance while enabling counterproductive cyberslacking behaviours that hamper job performance.

The research identified two types of information and communications technologies (ICT) technostressors – hindrance and challenge. Hindrance technostressors, like work overload, aggravate employees’ time and strain-based work-family conflicts, negatively impacting employee wellbeing and significantly hindering employees’ overall satisfaction with both work and family life.

Between them, strain-based work-family conflicts, such as unintentional emotional resource depletion, was found to have a stronger effect than time-based conflicts.

On the contrary, challenge technostressors, like learning new software, can motivate employees to improve their work efficiency and induce a positive sense of accomplishment, thereby enabling them to better perform their family duties and subsequently reduce conflicts.

Technostressors can provoke cyberslacking

Technostressors can also enable counterproductive cyberslacking behaviours. The overall research model revealed that cyberslacking has a significant negative effect on job performance, and situational and personal enablers and inhibitors are strongly linked to cyberslacking.

Situational enablers, i.e. facilitating conditions and subjective norms, are triggers that provoke cyberslacking; while situation inhibitors are barriers that prevent an individual from engaging in cyberslacking, such as perceived ICT control policies.

The results revealed that 40% of cyberslacking (personal internet use at work) variance and 21% of job performance variance were explained by factors such as insufficient technology training and loose workplace ICT policies and norms.

Meanwhile, personal enablers, such as attitude, extraversion, and neuroticism, are personal factors that motivate employees to engage in cyberslacking. Personal inhibitors are factors that impede employees from performing acts of cyberslacking, presenting in personality traits like openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

How to tackle technostressors and cyberslacking

Here are the business implications outlined by the research for companies and employers:

  • Providing supportive resources, clear communication, and family-friendly arrangements is crucial to improve employee wellbeing.
  • Focused training should reframe new technologies as challenges for personal growth, rather than hindrances.
  • Establishing forward-thinking policies and procedures, explain them transparently, and regularly train employees on proper technology use expectations.
  • Working closely with managers and supervisors to cultivate preferred social norms about the appropriate use of IT equipment in the workplace.
  • Screening candidates for their ‘Big Five’ personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism) during hiring. Once on board, managers should keep a closer eye on employees with high levels of extraversion and neuroticism, as they are more likely to engage in non-work ICT use.

"To reap the full benefits, organisations must proactively address the 'dark side' of workplace technologies by cultivating supportive cultures, implementing tailored training programmes and focusing on building an inclusive culture that encourages open conversations on new technologies that become part of our work lives," said Professor Cheung.

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