Inspired by Jason Thatcher‘s provocative, yet inspiring opinion piece about #technostress research, I feel compelled to comment on what more is there to look into when it comes to technostress research.
As Jason discusses, it’s been two decades since #technostress research entered Information Systems. However, it’s almost four decades since #technostress was first defined.
In information systems, we’ve primarily focused on one aspect of the #technostress definition, namely related to negative impacts. We did not take into consideration that what Craig Brod, PhD. also describes as technostress is our technocenteredness:
- Our technocenteredness: Our tendency to seek digital solutions for most problems, almost reflexively.
- Our deep identification with our devices and gadgets.
(Craig Brod, PhD. – please correct me if I am mistaken on this one.)
Now that we established that in IS we only explore half of the issue, this half still requires further investigation. For example:
1) Methodology. We only recently see a shift towards mixed-methods and a few qualitative papers. Most papers are quantitative – brilliant papers nonetheless – but quantitative methods have their own inherent limitations. We see a few mixed-methods papers – also excellent papers – but there is still more to do here when it comes to qualitative research.
I am yet to see ethnographic studies – with the exception of the cognitive ethnography study of Charlott Sellberg and Tarja Susi from 2014 – or more innovative qualitative methods. Also, what about comparative case studies and, as Jason mentioned, replication of research on other demographics. We do see an example of replication with the work of @Chen Leida who replicated technostress instrument on Chinese knowledge workers, and a marketing testing by Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy at Neurons who found out that German demographics are less patient with streaming delays than Indonesian demographics.
2) Epistemology continuum: Our research has mostly spanned from positivism to critical realism. However, there’s room to explore other perspectives like interpretivism, social constructionism, phenomenology, feminist theory, techno-feminism, and post-phenomenology. Each perspective could offer unique insights into technostress research.
3) Disciplinary assumptions. It is my impression that most papers are based on either psychological or (neuro)physiological measurements, which also have their inherent assumptions about emotions, stress, and cognition. Sociology has also much to offer, and we see a turn towards this stream even in stress research with the work of @Chris Peterson on a sociological perspective on stress at work.
4) Environment. Our focus has predominantly been on the technological environment, but the social environment remains underemphasized. My research, for instance, delves into the norms and obligations around ICT usage, revealing a wealth of material to explore.
5) Demographics. I am yet to see a study in IS on children and technostress or elderly. Or have I missed it? Recently, I had the absolute pleasure to supervise student projects at Roskilde University who created pilot research studies of:
- Gen Z and TikTok. Tubay Bicen, Irem Yapici and Sarmad Barani have conducted ethnographic studies of how children and family life is impacted by childrens’ use of TikTok in their home. Amongst their findings: families’ life are interrupted by “supermarket – like tantrums” as children are exposed to commercials via their TikTok and interrupt family lives as they wish to purchase the products they are exposed to “right here and right now”, and there is a homogenization of preferences amongst children as they wish to wear the same clothes, play the same games, and look like the other children they see on TikTok – who might or might not be their close peers.
- Digitalization amongst elderly in the nursing homes. Oscar Evald, Tobias Hjelm Stærk Hansen, and @Markus visited an elderly home to discuss with the elderly about usage of mandated e-government solutions. Important questions were raised in regards to what can the government expect from the elderly, when is one’s cognitive abilities and health impacted “enough” so that someone else should take responsability over that persons’ digital identity?
- Distractions amongst university students. Sif Sylvester Bang, @Marcus Andre Jacobsen and Mike K. Olsen have looked into self-distractions during university teaching.
6) Domains. We see a predominant focus on implicit types of organizations: the so-called more knowledge intensive (appologies for a lack of a better description here, I do not imply that other companies are using less knowledge). But what about other sectors and industries which are now more digitalized? Here, I supervised two other interesting projects:
- Maritime sector. Bravely, Christopher Bech-Jensen Nicolai Friis Jensen and Marcus Christiansen have asked a DFDS ship captain to wear a smart watch during in- and out-sailing to look into their heart rate variability as they perform these tasks which are to some extent digitalized. I have also conducted a mini-ethnographic study also with DFDS where I looked into the digital technologies and their impact.
- Moving companies. Cora Houlberg, Oscar Evald, @Asbjørn Larsen, and Tobias Hjelm Stærk Hansen looked into a moving company that was very analog and how should it digitalize its processes more in order to keep up with the market and its customers. Of course, we see issues here: if the movers should rely on iPads, how can these be stored and worked with while also performing heavy physical tasks?
7) Public/Private organizations: With a few exceptions – e.g. Christopher B. Califf Suprateek Sarker and Saonee Sarker who look into Healthcare IT, studies are focusing on private organizations. However, I am not running short of hospitals, schools, and municipalities reaching out to ask for help with technostress related issues. I would also like to see a study on technostress amongst university educators who now have to heavily rely on digital technologies to perform their tasks, while encountering constant computer upgrades and other ICT errors.
8) E-government and societies. We are more than employees. Technostress apparently can affect our digital citizenship, parenting, love life, social life and more. While pitching to my students an idea on online dating fatigue, I also had the pleasure to supervise Stine Juul Christensen and Catharina Leth Andersen project on Tinder and how it affects our dating life. They took the project on a more societal and political level: dating apps are using design principles relating to gamification as their interest it to have users on the platform, while I think there is still much to understand about online dating fatigue and dating apps.
A parent recently wrote to let me know how the parents’ school intranet is a source of overwhelm and overload and how she contends with being a good parent while being exposed to unncessary information and wanting to be present with her child instead of being available on the intranet and reacting/commenting/sharing to seem as a “good and interested parent”.
9) Private use of IT. There are a few studies on private use of IT, but here, we can look into more aspects of it. For example, smartwatches that tell us we have not slept enough or moved enough. Also, what about our friends becoming influencers or being constantly exposed to the better lives of others, while we doom scroll in our living rooms?
10) Types of technology. We looked predominantly into ICTs and I would also perhaps think that we looked mostly into backend types of technologies and e-mail. There is more here to unpack, as depending on the industry and country, we also see an increase in IM, chats, Whatsapp usage. Of course, we could also consider AI and technostress.
11) Types of technostressors: Here, I see it on a continuum: from the innocent ICT error, to more cumulative technostressors, such as overload. Much research puts them in the same bucket, but I think they should also be treated differentially.
12) Coping. There is so much left to cover here. Of course, the work of Henri Pirkkalainen and Markus Salo on predictive and reactive coping strategies is remarkable, as well as Monideepa Tarafdar research, but we need many more research studies that can look into coping, management, strategies, interventions, mitigation of technostress at all levels: micro, macro, meso.
13) Measurements and markers. While stress can be almost seen as an epidemic, we still don’t have a way to diagnose neither stress nor technostress. I am not sure this can be done easily, though I was involved in a working group this year where, ambitiously, the purpose was to bring together social scientists and natural scientists – qualitative and quantitative – and attempt to find a way to measure technostress at all levels in an organization: micro and macro. Here, I had the absolute pleasure to discuss with Walter Staiano Ph.D, MSc, CPS, Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy and more exceptional researchers – but, this type of endeavor is not straigthforward and easy.
14) Design principles. Dark side or dark matter, asks Silvia Masiero in a recent opinion piece. There are some design aspects inscribed in the technology that we already know could lead to technostress. Here, we could stop and ask how can we establish design principles meant to prevent as many technostress incidents as possible?
15) User testing. In the same line of thought – how can we include technostress knowledge in the testing process so that we don’t only look into usability, but also prevention of technostress. This is inspired by the many conversations with the UX/UI expert Helle Martens.
16) Digital project management and change management strategies. It is established that IT implementation can lead employees to fear for their jobs (techno-insecurity) – but what about designing change management strategies or communication thereof that can minimize these types of technostressors? Perhaps I can nudge my colleagues Benedicte Fleron and Jan Pries-Heje to consider future projects where change management, resistance to change, and technostress can be combined.
17) Surveillance and technostress. We see that with the advent of Microsoft 365 surveillance tools – or, as they call them, productivity tools, leaders can now monitor how many emails employees have written and how many meetings employees have attended. On the other hand, some employees in Bangladesh have confessed that Microsoft Teams status color has been used as a form of surveillance. Some went to the extreme of playing YouTube videos while being away from they computer as a way for the Teams status color to remain green (a.i. available).
18) Invisible work and shifting job roles. While companies are saving up on IT support staff, many IT related tasks have now fallen in between chairs. Often, it is the employees that also need to act as their own IT support – although, as we see in the work of Morten Hertzum and Kasper Hornbæk – much of the time, employees can not fix the issues themselves. Up to 20% of the working time seems to now be used on fixing computer issues, which can have a devastating impact on the individuals’ job identity. We see this for example within Healthcare – where these issues lead to nurses attrition.
19) Accesibility. Mostly, we focused our investigations on able bodied people. But what about technostress amongst people that live with certain disabilities (i.e., sight issues or impaired limbs) or are neuro diverse?
20) Diversity. What about technostress amongst people that technology is allegedly designed to be biased against? And even if it might not be this way, imagine being someone who doesn’t fit the norm and having to apply for a job that an AI recruiting system might render as not qualified. We see this with the famous Amazon scandal, and my students have found even more examples and studies.
In conclusion, the realm of technostress research is vast and multifaceted. There’s much left to explore, and I invite you to share your insights and join the conversation. Let’s delve deeper into the complexities of technostress and work towards a more balanced and productive digital future.
Feel free to connect with me if you’d like to discuss further or collaborate on technostress research.