Human Resources

Stress vs. boredom: What is the impact of tech?

Everyone bangs on about stress in the workplace but what about the other silent killer? Boredom. And in the ‘fast-paced’ ‘always-on’ world of global business, workers aren’t even meant to admit this is a problem. In this two-part series we consult a variety of experts to find out which is worse for your health and career… and what difference technology makes.

Not so long ago many of us used to buy a daily paper, consume news at a set time on TV or radio and consult trusted sources for comment and analysis. Now everything has turned on its head and we live in a world of constant updates on everything… and general flim-flam on nothing.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying sometimes I find it all cripplingly tedious. It can become like a constant stream of non-stop rubbish without any respite. And this endless bilge can lead to disengagement and serious boredom. The same general trend can be witnessed in the workplace.

The negative impact of tech, claims Independent Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Gordon Tinline, is the increasing information overload in combination with expectancy and need for immediate response. “This is mainly a stress risk,” he says “but depending on the content of this it could also increase boredom”.

The positive impact of technology, he continues is that “information communication increasingly allows us to access a wide range of different activities and to connect with a wide range of people. This might reduce boredom and also provide access to support networks out of reach to individuals who feel dis-empowered.”

“There’s also the issue of employees abusing trust in terms of using social media as a distraction tool at work to fill boredom lulls,” suggests Jayne Carrington, Managing Director of Right Management Workplace Wellness. “The key is to use technology appropriately and to remember it should be an enabler, rather than a productivity drain.”

“Whilst technology is accountable for streamlining processes and assisting business growth, it can also be responsible for breeding stress and boredom,” says Lee Biggins, managing director of CV-Library.

The expectation of having information at your fingertips can lead to intense frustration when the tech doesn’t deliver. On the other side of the coin adds Biggins, “some jobs that used to require manual intervention can now be completed at the click of a button, which can reduce human involvement and turn employees into operators instead of processors.”

“In the short term this may get worse,” suggests Tinline “particularly as I see organisations still failing to find better behavioural ways of coping with information overload.  We also need to get back to techniques which used to be more popular, such as job enrichment, which can reduce boredom and improve productivity and performance.  Things may also improve if the pool of people prepared to undertake boring work reduces.”

“A little boredom and stress is inevitable in any workplace,” concludes Carrington “but introducing technology-enabled flexible working schemes can help to stimulate a sense of wellbeing and productivity amongst all workers – particularly those who may find they work better at home.”

“It also helps to promote the notion that work should be about outputs and results, not just how many hours people sit at their desks.”


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