HR Expert: Decreasing Stress Levels Due to Technology

My client has heard that technology use could lead to higher stress levels and is concerned about staff who often use mobile phones to answer emails at home. How can they prevent excessive stress from occurring?

Advancements in technology have played a significant role in making business more efficient and have certainly added to the flexibility that so many employees are looking for in their working lives. However, some commentators argue that the ‘always on’ culture that is a side-effect from such advancements has in fact led to an increase in stress amongst workers. As your client is concerned about the impact mobile phone usage could have on employee stress levels there are a number of steps they could take.

Your client should look at the reason why employees are working from outside of their designated working hours. Whilst some jobs will require an ‘on-call’ presence, many will not and therefore your client should try to pinpoint the real reason. Do employees feel overworked and unable to get their job done in their normal working hours? Has an expectation been created for employees to respond immediately to an email sent by a manager? Identifying the real reason will help to pinpoint ways to help resolve it.

Your client could consider monitoring employees’ activity on personal work devices – done in line with laws on data protection – and stepping into if someone appears to be working excessively in their free time. Whilst staff may occasionally choose to use their mobile phones to work at home, it is important that your client does not create any obligation for them to do so and specifically sets out ‘switch off times’ after working hours where employees are expected to turn their work mobile phones and laptops off.

A key issue with reducing stress is that many employees have a tendency to suffer in silence, meaning it can be difficult to judge who is struggling. Therefore, your client should consider how they could encourage staff to be open with them when they are feeling stressed, and the support they can offer to employees who have confided that they are struggling.

From a wider perspective, it may also be useful for your client to combat stress using external methods. Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can add a different dimension to an employer’s support because they offer access to expert counselling professionals who can give advice to employees who are suffering from stress in a way that employers themselves are not trained to.

Whilst employers may see the business benefits of having employees “switched on” all the time, it will certainly pay off for them, in the long run, to consider the mental health of their employees and ensure that they have sufficient opportunity to rest away from work.

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