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The Technostress: definition, symptoms and risk prevention

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With the advent of Web 2.0 and Social media, a radical change in the world of communication and information flows has occurred, that have crossed space and time limits. The new technology, with its rapid evolution marked by the access to the digital world through the Smartphone invention, resulted in a sharp acceleration of the rhythms of life and work. On the other hand a massive pervasiveness of digital technology in the professional and personal rhythms has been recorded. Technostress, defined for the first time in 1984, is a syndrome that occurs when the person, subjected to information overload and continuous contact with most digital devices, develops a state of stress, or an abnormal response characterized by specific symptoms at the cardiocirculatory, mental and neurological levels. The repercussions of Technostress invest business and relational sphere causing absenteeism, loss of professional effectiveness, conflict and isolation. In 2007, the syndrome has been recognized as an occupational disease: this requires that in all workplace where a frequently use of digital technologies (ICT, publishing etc.) does exist, there is the need to include Technostress in the document of work-related risk assessment. This application is essential to put in place adequate protection and prevention measures, such as increased training of employees on the harmful effect of Technostress and implementation of specific strategies for managing symptoms.
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Chiappetta M. Senses Sci 2017: 4 (1)358-361
doi: 10.14616/sands-2017-1-358361
www.sensesandsciences.com
The Technostress: definition, symptoms and risk prevention
Marta Chiappetta
Managing Editor Senses and Sciences
*Corresponding author: Dr.ssa Marta Chiappetta. E-mail: poesisnet@gmail.com
Article history
Received: March 23, 2017
Accepted: April 10, 2017
Published: April 11, 2017
Abstract
With the advent of Web 2.0 and Social media, a radical change in the world of communication and information flows has
occurred, that have crossed space and time limits.
The new technology, with its rapid evolution marked by the access to the digital world through the Smartphone invention, resulted
in a sharp acceleration of the rhythms of life and work. On the other hand a massive pervasiveness of digital technology in the
professional and personal rhythms has been recorded.
Technostress, defined for the first time in 1984, is a syndrome that occurs when the person, subjected to information overload and
continuous contact with most digital devices, develops a state of stress, or an abnormal response characterized by specific symptoms at
the cardiocirculatory, mental and neurological levels.
The repercussions of Technostress invest business and relational sphere causing absenteeism, loss of professional effectiveness, conflict
and isolation.
In 2007, the syndrome has been recognized as an occupational disease: this requires that in all workplace where a frequently use of
digital technologies (ICT, publishing etc.) does exist, there is the need to include Technostress in the document of work-related risk
assessment. This application is essential to put in place adequate protection and prevention measures, such as increased training of
employees on the harmful effect of Technostress and implementation of specific strategies for managing symptoms.
Keywords: Technostress, Web 2.0, Social Media, Smartphone, electrosmog, information overload, networkers, work-related
stress
Technology has changed the world, it made life easier
and it is now so integrated in the existence of individuals
that it is quite impossible to do without. The advent of
digital technology with the development of the Internet
has allowed the progress of humanity; the World
WideWeb has revolutionized the companies that have
embraced the digital world, while the Web 2.0 and social
media communication has changed dramatically, and in
the same time all have become both users and content
authors.
The territories have become hyper-places where the
flow of information and data generated by electronic
devices (devices) have exceeded the limits of the physical
environment.
The new technology with all its evolutions has been,
and is still the subject of numerous studies and research
that highlight the positive and negative aspects.
In particular, the advent of the Smartphone has formed
the largest gateway to digital but also a real life remote
control, a tool that accompanies all rituals of existence.
With the invention of the App, also the potential and
contexts of use are increased.
The term Technostress was coined by the American
psychologist Craig Brod in his book published in 1984
Senses Sci 2017; 4 (1): 358361
www.sensesandsciences.com
by Addison Wesley: "Technostress: the human cost of the
computer revolution”. The psychologist referred for the
first time to the stress associated with the use of
technologies and their impact on the psychological level.
In the definition of Brod, the Technostress was "a
modern disease of adaptation caused by inability to cope
with new computer technologies in a healthy manner",
meaning bothcomputers and software [1]. In 1997 this
concept was revised and expanded by two American
psychologists, Larry Rosen and Michelle M. Weil, in the
book "TechnoStress: Coping With Technology @ Work
@Home @Play", as a result of a research lasting 16 years.
In their analysis the meaning of technostress become
wider indicating " any negative impact on attitudes,
thoughts, behaviors or psychology caused directly or
indirectly by technology" [2].
The times induced by technology, evolving too quickly,
do not adapt to the location of individuals, why they
develop a psychological pressure characterized by
discomfort and frustration.
As far as concerns symptoms due to the syndrome of
Technostress, one can recognizeanxiety, mental fatigue,
depression, nightmares; in particular, many people were
subject to frequent bouts of anger caused by the
difficulties of computer software and the use and
management of faults or blocks which interrupted the
work [1].
The theoretical framework developed by Brod, and later
that proposed byRosen and Wail, is strictly related to the
period in which it was conceived. In recent years many
changes have occurred, both in technology and in
communications; The Internet network has been
transformed into a universal tool for information and
digital technology becomes common with the advent of
smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi and digital TV. So, now the
term Technostress acquires a new meaning with the
transition to the era of connections, where information is
everywhere. In the new sense, this refers to the syndrome
huge amount of information to which individuals are
immersed and which is absorbed and managed on a daily
basis leading to a cognitive overload: this phenomenon in
psychology is called "information overload". When the
brain receives information, it corresponds to the psychic
level to a mental input. This requires a response which
results in activation of neuronal connections. When
inputs are many and constant, as in the case of the
information overload and management of multiple
digital devices, there is a state of alarm and stress, or an
abnormal response (mental and physical) of the body that
is manifested by an intense production of adrenaline and
cortisol. In this condition cardiovascular disorders,
psychic and neurological diseases are possible
consequence in the short and long period [3].
The strain is generated by the large amount of
information "input" that go beyond what the individual
can reasonably absorb. In these cases one can experience a
state of anxiety, characterized by a widespread fear of
being overwhelmed by an immense amount of material
that cannot be put in order and under control [4].
Another factor that has allowed the emergence of
Technostress, both in the workplace and in the personal
and relational setting, is the role of mobile technology
that favours continued use of the information flow
without constraints of space and place.
This element highlights a major difference with the first
embryonic definition of Brod who took in analysis the
psychophysical reactions of subjects who were working at
their desktop.
Indeed, in early studies we could already see the
problematic fact that the rapid evolution of technology
would have in the future, as revealed by research by
Sandra Champion in 1988 that effectively described the
technostress as "the result of technology” [5] . The same
Brod who coined the term, defined the technostress as a
condition caused by the difficulty of people and
professional areas to adapt to rapid changes in
technology. In the study of Brod emerged as factors of
technostress also the level and the user's technical
expertise, the pressure applied from the outside during
use and the atmosphere lived within the work place [6].
The complex mechanisms generated by technological
innovation has led to changes that help to trace the signs
identifying the technostress risk:
- Constant use of the smartphone even in social
gatherings;
- The subject never turns off the phone;
- Are very frequent nocturnal awakenings to
connect to Social platforms;
- It also warns the instinct to call in private places
(cinemas, libraries etc.);
- Writing messages while on the move;
- The tv is primarily used on the tablet or mobile
phone.
Next to these "risk behaviors", one can outline a number
of symptoms that characterize the syndrome technostress
that often, for lack of information, are not properly
identified:
Physical symptoms
- Increased heart rate;
- Cardiovascular disorders (hypertension,
coronary heart disease);
- Gastrointestinal disorders (irritable bowel
syndrome, gastritis, reflux);
- Muscle tension pain;
- Tingling in the limbs;
- Insomnia and sleep-waking rhythm disorders;
Chiappetta M.
www.sensesandsciences.com
- Headache;
- Chronic fatigue;
- Sweating;
- Cervical pain;
- Hormonal and menstrual disorders in women;
- Stress-related skin disorders (psoriasis,
dermatitis).
Mental symptoms (behavioral and cognitive)
- Irritability;
- Depression;
- Behavioral changes;
- Decreased sexual desire;
- Crying spells;
- Apathy.
The symptomatology has a subjective component and
each person may develop certain symptoms or not. This
is what happens generally in reactions to stress which
affect not only external elements, but above individual
elements that are defined in the literature "subjective
factors". These factors intervene in the reaction process
but are not bound to any external element. Out of these
subjective elements, it is possible to work on prevention
activities by intervening on the inner aspects that
"respond" to the stressful events [7].
Furthermore symptoms attributable to those caused by
the so-called "electrosmog", or excessive exposure, day
and night, to electromagnetic fields emitted by electrical
appliances, routers and Wi-Fi modem, smartphone,
tablet and pc.
The Technostress in an advanced stage is responsible of
many repercussions, both at the working and relational
level. At work amnesia and memory disorders can occur,
and this is associated withan increaingabsenteeism, lack
of motivation and loss of professional effectiveness.
The symptoms caused by technostress often coexists
with other psychological and physical phenomena such as
the syndrome of burn-out and derivative disorders from
workaholism. These conditions are not diseases but
represent an important psychosocial risk factor. There is
evidence that these factors can lead to serious health
consequences and produce in subjects certain diseases.
For this reason, the stress derived from technological
dependence, which is still an underestimated
phenomenon, is diagnosed in a late stage, often after
serious events related to health such as heart attacks, for
which is prescribed a long rest period away from work
[8].
Also on the relational level technostress has a strong
impact: the technostressed subject reacts with the
isolation and emotional closure, he/she has bouts of
anger, conflicts with colleagues and family. These
conditions often result in a syndrome of Internet
addiction (IAD - Internet Addiction Disorder), disorder
that is intertwined with technostress.
In 2007 Technostress has been recognized as an
occupational disease following a prosecutor's ruling
added the Court of Turin, Raffaele Guariniello. The
transition to the definition of occupational disease
occurred after numerous complaints and concerns of
employees. The first investigation took place in a call
center, high-risk places technostress. But as it happened
in the evolution of the term, many investigations have
been made in the past, when the technology was not yet
developed and the digital information was not present in
large numbers. For this reason, the technostress can
register new cases, different in symptoms and the degree
of severity; furthermore professional risk may also
increase for the birth and growth of new professional
categories. At present, every working area, where one
frequently uses digital technologies (ICT, publishing
etc.), shall be included in the document of the work-
related stress risk assessment, i.e. Technostress risk.
This path is applied in accordance with the
Consolidated Law 81/2008 of Health and Safety at work.
Given the recent spread of Technostress, the risk
assessment in professional fields is essential to identify
appropriate protection and prevention measures
concerning the organization of work, procedures,
information and training of workers [9].
In the survey on risk assessment in the workplace, it is
very important to frame the type of company to establish
the kind of relationship with the information load and
the simultaneous management of multiple digital devices
(multitasking). This often happens in companies that
deal with publishing where workers use creativity,
simultaneously running programs and interact with the
social network (multimedia, inclusion of online reviews,
use of discussion forums) [10].
The working environments where the risk is high
technostress are many; however, the most at-risk workers
are networkers (who works in the network), the ICT
professions (Information and Communications
Technology), call center operators, journalists,
community manager and web content editor,
accountants, lawyers, advertising, financial analysts,
business people and programmers.
The parameters that help define the risk of
Technostress entities are the elapsed time to manage the
digital information, the amount of load information and
symptoms that indicate a marked tendency to sag in the
syndrome [9]. In order to draw the boundaries of the
disorder technostress the presence of two particular
elements is recognized: the radical acceleration of the
Senses Sci 2017; 4 (1): 358361
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rhythms of life and work and the merger between
personal and professional life caused by the pervasiveness
of digital technology. Each person can work or be
contacted at any time and in any place. The digital
revolution and social media have distorted the usual
concept of separation between the online and offline.
Individuals in the present age are screened in a spherical
time that has no beginning or end, where aspects of
professional and personal life merge into a single stream
of representations and digital content. The Technostress
shows very clearly its face in the business world, especially
the one in which it makes heavy use of social platforms in
the company even when they are not used for purposes
related to productivity or professional activity.
Controlling, often in an obsessive way, the email out of
context and the working hours (upon waking, in bed, at
the table, on holiday etc.) induces people to not separate
the contexts and to continue to manage the information
load with the same intensity. It certainly cannot deny
that the advent of smartphones has led to countless
benefits and employment opportunities, allowing us to
manage projects and distance activities, improving staff
productivity and creating new connections with
companies and entrepreneurs although active at great
distances. The central issue is that the management of
these tools must be aware and professional, in order to
avoid getting to the domain of a continuous digital
stream [11].
The continued availability granted by “always on”
(always connected) is functional to businesses who want
to maintain a constant pressure on resources even outside
the workplace, a phenomenon which generates an
increase in productivity, however, is not recognized in
earnings. On the other side, even in the absence of an
effective contractual arrangement, the worker tends to
tolerate these intrusions, considering them an integral
and inevitable activity and their role, and to consent to
send feedback quickly even when requests via email or
messages are made late in the evening, night or weekend.
Continued connection and without borders can have a
negative effect on mental and physical health, social,
affective and professional relationships, and on the same
work performance.
Consequence management involves the implementation
of prevention strategies, training and measures for the
management of symptomatic load. Remedies available for
Technostress are those that cause the mental and physical
relaxation and interruption, for some portions of time,
the digital stream through mental techniques (Neuro-
linguistic programming , concentration exercises), holistic
techniques (yoga, acupuncture, meditation), sports
techniques (sport and walks in contact with nature),
regenerative techniques (natural food, use of herbal
medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy) [9]. In the
workplace it is important to provide for a reorganization
of work and a proper distribution of the work load in
compliance with timetables and extra-working spaces. A
good strategy should also include the activation of the
request for increased training of workers on the
technostress risk assessment and damage associated with
electromagnetic fields.
References
1. Brod, C. Technostress: The human cost of the
computer revolution. Addison Wesley Publishing
Company 1984.
2. Weil, M. & Rosen, L. TechnoStress: Coping With
Technology@Work@Home@Play. John Wiley &
Sons, New York 1997.
3. Brigo B. Stress positivo, stress negativo. Tecniche
Nuove, Milano 2007.
4. Erasmus E. Psychological Character of Computer-
related Technostress. Manpower Development
Department Chemicals Business, Sasol Polymers
Sasolburg RSA – South Africa 2013.
5. Champion, S. Technostress:Technology’s Toll.
School Library Journal, November, 1988; 48-51.
6. Şahin YL, Çoklar AN. Social networking users’
views on technology and the determination of
technostress levels. Procedia - Social and Behavioral
Sciences 2009; 1(1):1437-1442.
7. Danon M. Stop allo stress. Urra- Apogeo, Milano
2012.
8. Pucci E, Cristina S, Antonaci F et al. Technostress
and primary headache: psychosocial risk. J Headache
Pain. 2015 Dec;16(Suppl 1):A147.
9. Di Frenna E. Tecnostress. Le 10 cose da sapere per
affrontare il rischio nel lavoro digitale e imparare a
valutarlo, 2015. Ebook available at
http://www.netdipendenzaonlus.it/landing-
tecnostress/ebook-tecnostress.html.
10.Di Frenna E. TecnoStress/ Il multitasking cresce e
genera malessere. Novembre 2008. Available at
http://punto-
informatico.it/2461347/PI/Commenti/tecnostress-
multitasking-cresce-genera-malessere.aspx.
11.Perciavalle M. Prunesti A. Offline è bello. Franco
Angeli, Milano 2016.
... These findings are unsurprising, as according to Karasek's model of work demand and control, an increase in work demands accompanied by a decrease in control by users over their own work can lead to an increase in work-related stress and result in long-term user illness [16,17]. However, stress can be buffered through various resources (e.g., social or organizational support, personal digital literacy) [16,[18][19][20]. ...
... The participation of end-users in decision-making processes when introducing new technologies or implementing them, e.g., in the form of employee surveys, team discussions on software selection and the use of test phases, is shown to be an important factor in reducing digital-related work stress [18,19,46]. Likewise, the employees in our study signalled a willingness to learn new things. ...
... The participants further see a potential to reduce digital stress in making clear communication agreements such as establishing availability or checking emails proactively [1], in order to create digital breaks. Another key factor contributing to increased user satisfaction is the expansion of IT knowledge [18,19]. The participants would like this to be available in the form of more specific and individualised training and information opportunities. ...
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... As such, they were bombarded with various hardware and software technological resources to enhance effective e-learning within a short space of time, without any adequate training or clear guiding e-learning policies. This situation resulted in unintended consequences of technology overuse and the inability to cope with new technologies, termed technostress (Chiappetta, 2017). Brod (1984) first coined the term technostress to refer to the stress associated with using technology and its impact on a practitioner's psychological and physical aspects; this is a disease of adaptation caused by an inability to cope with varied and emerging technological developments in a workplace. ...
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... Hence this situation automatically leads to the development of psychological pressures related to physical harm. In other words, the bombardment of various technological resources on lecturers, without adequate training by universities to enhance effective e-learning within a short period of time in the context of COVID-19, automatically results in their developing technostress (Chiappetta, 2017;Mpungose, 2020b). ...
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... Feeling of threat, insecurity, anxiety, or fear due to technology's increased proliferation can be termed technostress (Salanova, Llorens, Cifre, & Nogareda, 2007). The literature on technostress reports impacts of technostress on performance, commitment, satisfaction, physical or mental health, behavior, productivity, job security, burnout, etc. (Chiappetta, 2017;La Torre, Esposito, Sciarra, & Chiappetta, 2019;Salanova, Llorens, & Ventura, 2014). Using certain apps, adopting new ways of teaching, recording lectures, creating online content, and being the time virtually available for students and administration is different kinds of stress teachers face during COVID-19. ...
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Despite being used frequently due to the benefits brought to daily life, the use of technology also brings with it certain disadvantages. One of these disadvantages, stress, is referred to as technostress. This study analyzes the technostress levels of social networking website users through different variables. Social networking website users were chosen under the assumption that they utilize technology more frequently and closely follow technological developments. Data was gathered by an online questionnaire, with 765 participants. The study concluded that social networking website users have a medium level of technostress, mainly caused by environmental reasons as opposed to social reasons. Also, it was found that age and familial monthly income causes differentiation in technostress levels.
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