How digital technologies and remote work affect well-being

How digital technologies and remote work affect well-being

Feeling that you have to be constantly available for work results in a constant state of stress. But in reality, not many managers will take it wrong if you sometimes don’t answer the phone. Credit: Roberto Sherdiwan

Many people are prevented from sleeping by thoughts about work even after the workday is over. In collaboration with Professor Sandra Ole of the University of Kassel, Professor Marcel Kern, Head of the Work and Health Research Group at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, is researching how digital technologies and remote work affect well-being.

Digital technology alone will not cause stress

“There is a lot of research on digital technology and burnout,” says Marcel Kern. It is often assumed that people cannot stop working because of digital accessibility. But is it really because of digital media as such? Marcel Kern, Clara Hessler, and Sandra Ole set out to get to the heart of this question. On five consecutive days, they had employees from different businesses fill out a questionnaire three times a day. How many hours did they use their cell phones at work? Were there still many unfinished tasks at the end of the day? How close can they be in the evening? These and many other questions were answered by 340 participants.

The result: the stress was not just because they were using digital technology, but mainly when uncompleted tasks were piling up that required them to use technology. In order to recommend effective actions, researchers must be able to distinguish between people who can’t turn off work because they use their cell phones and people who use their cell phones because they can’t turn it off. The latter seems more likely to apply.

Manager training improves satisfaction

As Marcel Kern discovered in follow-up surveys, it is the attitude and behavior of managers that usually make people feel the need to be present at all times. Employees base their behavior on the behavior of their managers. And if those managers keep sending emails late into the night, it makes the rest of the team think they have to respond right away. In a study – again in collaboration with Sandra Ohly’s team in Kassel – Marcel Kern explored ways to combat this problem.

Twenty-three managers of a commercial organization took part in a training course. During this training, the researchers made them aware of how their behavior and behavior affect their employees. The researchers recommended, for example, that explicit agreements be made with the team regarding after-hours availability. Or to explain why the manager keeps sending out emails late at night — for example, because it’s easier for them to juggle that with their childcare responsibilities.

The researchers interviewed the managers’ staff before conducting the training and about six weeks afterward: When did they think they should be available for their organization? Were they able to close in the evening? How stressed are they because of their work? “The results were decisive,” says Marcel Kern. “Employees felt much better after the intervention. This came as a surprise to the managers. They weren’t aware of the impact of their behavior.”

The search was published in Journal of Business and Psychology.

Research shows that the movement of a manager affects the functions of subordinates

more information:
Clara Hessler et al., When Thinking About Work Makes Employees Reach for Their Machines: A Subjective Longitudinal Diary Study, Journal of Business and Psychology (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10869-021-09781-0

Provided by Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum

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