Extended use of computers and workplace stress

Extended use of computers and workplace stress

Work Health and Safety Training - 01/05/2015

As the modern business world becomes more reliant on technology, more and more jobs are desk-based. There can be little denying that these roles have changed the way enterprises engage both each other and consumers, and this in itself can present workplace stress.

Identifying issues

Unfortunately, identifying the specific link between computer use and stress can prove difficult. Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab* outlined how employees will go through a chain reaction of stress when faced with difficult digitally based tasks without even knowing it.

Pupil dilation, deeper respiratory breathing, intensified beating of the heart and increased muscle tension are all symptoms associated with anxiety, and they are only exacerbated in those who spend extended amounts of time on computers at work.

Ideally, stress management solutions should be unobtrusive and yet continuous, the MIT Media Lab found. While no fool-proof solution exists, the first step should be to educate staff via robust work health and safety training.

Stress management solutions should be unobtrusive and yet continuous.

Giving employees the tools to recognise triggers may help to keep engagement and productivity high.

Computer-based roles increase workplace stress

Research from the Swedish Work Environment Authority** pointed to the fact that while computer-based work has sped up processes, it has led to stricter deadlines. Subsequently, these have contributed to an increase of workplace stress.

Staff can struggle to switch off from work when they are focussed on hitting targets and deadlines, and a concoction of exhaustion, anxiety and anger can quickly set in. 

This will often lead to sleep disturbances, creating a vicious cycle in which an individual is exhausted due to testing deadlines but cannot get the adequate sleep needed to head into work everyday refreshed.

BioMed Central Psychiatry*** found that using a computer without regular breaks can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and – more worrying – it can be a risk factor for mental health issues.

While computers and screen-based technologies are crucial in most workplaces, organisations need to make sure their staff maintain safe working standards on such devices. As part of the education process, all WorkPro modules include information to help employees understand, identify, monitor and manage stress.

*MIT Media Lab, 'Under pressure: Sensing stress of computer users'.

**Swedish Work Environment Authority, 'Computer work'.

***BioMed Central Psychiatry, 'Computer use and stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression among young adults'.

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