Claire Scott, Chief People Officer at The Access Group, looks at why businesses need to set workplace expectations around the use of technology to empower individuals rather than adding to stress and burnout.

Burnout has always been a workplace risk for HR managers, but in 2022 we must see it through the lens of technology.

When the Covid-19 pandemic caused the world to switch to remote working almost overnight, technology was essential for business continuity. Then the subsequent cultural switch to hybrid working meant that collaborative software enabled us to communicate with colleagues wherever they were.

Concerns about stress and work/life balance were well documented when the Blackberry hybrid phone became the gadget of choice for workers in the ‘00s. But as the use of digital systems at work has advanced, it’s not just the temptation to constantly check an email that poses a threat to staff’s wellbeing – it is wondering if you’re being monitored while working from home, forgetting multiple passwords, responding to cybersecurity threats, receiving instant message notifications, or losing hours of your working day due to poorly performing technology.

A survey of workers in March 2021 found that 46 percent reported feeling more prone to extreme stress levels than the previous year. Is this because more technology is being used? Or is it because these tools aren’t being used correctly, with the proper boundaries and expectations in place, to mediate any repercussions for our mental health?


A management issue

Software that streamlines operations, offers visibility of business processes and enables better communication. Furthermore, research suggests that workers with sufficient time to complete tasks, while supported by their line managers, are 70 percent less likely to suffer burnout. Far from being a source of burnout, technology can be used to empower staff.

Repetitive tasks can be done by business management software, giving them much more time to do the work they love. As the shift towards finding enjoyment at work grows, there are more reports of mundane work leading to ‘boreout’, negatively impacting productivity, morale and staff turnover. So, as well as saving time, the right technology could bring much more comprehensive benefits if incorporated into a healthy working culture.


Less is more

There are other factors to consider for this technology to be effective. Business software is much more efficient when it integrates with other applications within the organisation, making it easy to use the data and insights stored across all business processes and departments. Using a single integrated system for multiple business functions also reduces the need for remembering multiple passwords – something which, according to a NordPass study, 67 percent of people find as stressful as finding a new job.

As an organisation, finding a system that’s easy to use and that harnesses technology’s benefits rather than hinders wellbeing at work is essential. Similarly, leadership must use the right technology for functions that will genuinely benefit their teams, rather than fuel a culture of mistrust.

A 2021 survey of 1,250 workers in America revealed that around one in three thought they were being monitored by their employer using software. While management must expect staff to use their time effectively, employees must know they are trusted to do their job in the hybrid environment. Using cloud-based systems to log or store work, it’s easy to see a workforce’s performance, without interfering with personal privacy.


The training balance 

A robust onboarding process is essential when installing any new software. A Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) survey found that only 28 percent of employees had training to prepare for role changes due to automation. At the same time, half felt they now needed more skills and knowledge to carry out their role. But when this becomes a regular occurrence, on too many disparate systems, staff workloads and morale are likely to suffer.

It’s time for organisations to look at how their current processes could affect their employees’ wellbeing and how making specific choices can make a more significant impact.

At its core, good communication between staff and management can reduce ‘e-presenteeism’, managing time properly to set realistic boundaries. Yet empowering staff with tools to make their working days simple can help them stick to these goals, working with them to perform better and with less stress.