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Sociological Mechanisms Behind ICT-Related Technostress in the Workplace

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Abstract

In highly digitalized countries such as Denmark, statistics show that one out of four employees have experienced high-stress levels. However, despite ample research evidence on the presence of technostress, the knowledge on this phenomenon is not yet part of the material and guidelines by the official authorities. Previous research on technostress provides quantitative psychological and neurophysiological perspectives on technostress, focusing on the individual, the technology, or the technological environment. We see this as a limited approach, as it leaves out the social environment in which technostress arises. We aim to expose the sociological mechanisms that contribute to technostress by using the sociological lens of obligation. We ask: “What is the knowledge that the sociological lens of obligation can bring to the understanding and handling of technostress?” To answer our research question, we employ an embedded case study in Denmark by looking into the existing political material and interviews with 14 employees across six organizations. We find that stress is mostly addressed from a response perspective, which points to the individual. This view is inherited in how the individuals take responsibility for the technostress they experience. At the same time, obligations of availability and engagement in productive work predominate the social environment. We contribute to theory by using a new-to-IS theory and conduct qualitative research to investigate the mature phenomenon of technostress within IS. We contribute to practice by showing a need to move in the direction of seeing technostress as a societal phenomenon, rather than solely an individual responsibility.

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