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Is technostress holding your business back?

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What is technostress and how is it affecting small business? Why is it important to small business owners? How does technostress put the brakes on high-growth and scale-up companies? Technostress is killing productivity. Culture is the cure.

Samantha Hounsell-Roberts was an NHS nurse for over a decade; has years of experience in hospitality; with a deep compassion for people; and helps ambitious business owners scale-up and exit.

Is your phone causing you technostress?

Do you check your emails when you wake up? Perhaps in the evening before bed or when you’re about to have dinner? What about looking at your phone as soon as you get a social media notification regardless of time?  When I observed Rogan, I’d see him regularly checking for emails with a sense of needing to respond immediately.

Owners and staff may fear missing out, forgetting to respond with all the other pressures, or be anxious to respond quickly to avert a crisis. Years ago, you’d have telephone calls, snail mail and meetings where there was more time to think about how to respond. Emails and social media are one area of living in a faster paced technology driven world. Advances in technology have benefits, and new mental stresses. The mental stress of technology is known by an umbrella term ‘technostress’. A survey of more than 1,000 organisations in the UK by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Simply Health showed that 87% say technology affects people’s ability to switch off out of work hours.

What about your staff?

Imagine that you’ve recently joined a business. You’re excited about the new job, being part of the team and making a difference. You look forward to the training, only to discover it hasn’t equipped you for the task and lacks hands on experience. You try to take in as much as you can, and when you ask for help, staff whizz through.

When you try to use the live system, there are endless technical problems that take up hours of your time to resolve. Once you’ve got it working, you find it stops working for no reason. You struggle to find the information you need to complete your tasks. Each person seems to have found a different way to work around the system. There seems to be a lot of stress with computers down and you witness frustration and anger in the work place. Senior management mandate the system from on high, yet you see staff are not engaging and forced into using it.  You hear staff talking of leaving and you’re left feeling anxious and worried.

Legal Duty

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress. Staff may feel stressed if they are not able to cope when demands are too great, or if they don’t get the needed knowledge and support. Stress can also occur when staff are not engaged during a business change. On the one hand, technology can provide tools to improve the workplace, and on the other hand it can cause technostress if not applied correctly. Employers must complete risks assessments and act on them to reduce workplace stress. Causes of stress at work.

The Cost

Stress is the most common cause of long-term absence, and the second most common reason for short-term absence. Workload is the most common cause of stress.  Technostress can occur when people are unable to switch-off, overloaded with information, multitasking, technical problems and the need to frequently learn and adapt to upgrades. An example from banking showed that 57.8% agreed that they were stressed after using computers due to work overload.

Owners want a happy and loyal workforce.  The True Cost of Recruitment is far higher than the headline figures, perhaps double the first year’s salary. The cost of lost productivity, management time as well as advertising and agency fees all add up.  It’s not only retaining good staff. If new hires don’t engage quickly during on-boarding, then they are more likely to leave.

Technostress is not only internal, it can create a negative culture that affects the whole business. The board may raise concerns that the culture is at odds with the direction. There are risks for customers and shareholders. There might be other brand risks such as in social media by unhappy staff or customers.

In summary

In our fast-changing world, when done well, technology can increase productivity, empower staff and reduce stress. According to Anne-Francoise Rutkowski & Carol Saunders in Emotional & Cognitive Overload, “the technology is not to blame” [Routledge, 2018].   Planning and staff engagement can substantially reduce the risk of technostress. Understanding the purpose, what’s required, and being realistic about what’s possible are all factors. No single technology is a silver bullet. Different parts pieced together can create something greater than the sum of the parts.

Scaling a business so that it is efficient and profitable is important for success. Ensuring that systems are in sync with your unique value proposition and direction are important for competitive advantage. Designing your systems to scale to achieve profitability and be competitive is easier with expert help and a fresh pair of eyes.

Samantha Hounsell-Roberts is a founder and Account Manager at KR5 Consulting that helps senior leaders to scale and exit. Through understanding the overall direction and needs of a business, they help leaders to map out their business and technology systems. KR5 Consulting help plan, implement and roll-out new ways of working for the business to accelerate, increase profits, scale-up, acquire customers and beat the competition.

If you’d like to explore the ideas in this article further or need help and advice, please contact Samantha at shounsell@kr5consulting.com – to arrange an informal chat.

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