Sun 28 May 2023 2:01 pm - Jerusalem Time

"Digital stress" is an expanding threat in the workplace

Digital tools take up more space in the workplace as they assist employees in carrying out their tasks, but they also carry the risk of “digital fatigue”, as a recent study indicates that 31% of employees over-contact these services.

"E-mails, remote meeting tools, internal messaging, Internet access (...) All these tools have turned our lives upside down," said epidemiologist and former director general of health in France William Dabb this week during a conference entitled "Digital Pressure, an Emerging Threat". after".

"Can these tools, or rather the uses of these tools, turn against us?"

"What I find complicated since relatively recently, post-Covid and periods of closure, is the proliferation of channels, which means we no longer know the source" of the flow of messages, between e-mail and services Teams, WhatsApp, Zoom, and text messages.

This situation, he notes, "makes managing a torrent (digital services) tedious. It's like Russian puppets that have to be opened."

With remote working and "increasingly fragmented" regulation, "we're all day behind our screens," says Jerome, a banking executive who asked not to be named. Even in the office, video meetings follow "at breakneck speed", according to Jerome, who describes the situation as "exhausting".

According to Dabb, “we can talk about ‘digital stress’ when the amount of available information that we have to process exceeds our capacity,” and it is a topic that “takes up increasing space” under various names, including “information overload”, “digital hardship” or “technological stress”.

According to the epidemiologist, "the central phenomenon is 'excessive contact'", which can lead to "mental overload".

He refers to "a vicious circle with a kind of constant pressure that makes us move from one source of information to another", and the feeling at some point of "a loss of control". A state of psychological pressure that "reaches its maximum form to the stage of occupational exhaustion."

"As a physician, I analyze this as a new form of addiction," says William Dapp, whose consequences we still know little about, even if the consequences of stress are "well known".

And these consequences are not limited to the "mental" aspect, as these elements are associated with "increased risk of cardiovascular disease, risks related to the metabolism", as well as "immunological" effects.

Likewise, psychological stress reduces occupational performance, and while digital tools “opened the door to remote work, they also put us in a state of isolation,” according to Dapp, who says, “In short, these very useful tools for us can also affect health and the quality of life at work.” ".

To illustrate the "little data" on the subject, Dabb cites a study whose results were published in mid-May.

This study, which was supervised by the French Observatory for Information Dumping and Digital Cooperation, was conducted, in particular, by analyzing the e-mail messages of about nine thousand people continuously for two years.

Without claiming that it contains a statistical value given the small sample of companies (10), the results show that 31% of employees are exposed to excessive contact by sending emails after eight in the evening during more than 50 nights a year (117). night for managers).

In addition, more than 50% of emails are answered within an hour of receiving them, and these messages generate "a lot of digital noise", as 25% of the messages that employees receive are not addressed to them personally, but are sent through the "" Reply to all.

The study also measured periods of "complete focus" (one hour without sending emails). At the management level, these periods are only 11% per week (24% for managers and 42% for employees).

Dabb believes that this means a loss of "efficiency and depth of analysis," adding, "We may have reached the toxicity threshold."

But “it is still possible to act” in these cases, according to the epidemiologist, by limiting information to “what is really necessary”, by “keeping the screen off at certain times” or even through physical activities or relaxation.

The ultimate goal is "not to allow one to pawn oneself as hard drug users do".


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"Digital stress" is an expanding threat in the workplace