Technology Problems Linked to Higher Stress Levels in Workers

    17 January 2021

    A new study shows a link between bad technology and higher stress levels of employees.

    Researchers from American computer company Dell Technologies led the study. Dell partnered with neuroscience company EMOTIV on the study.

    In this file photo, a mobile device user is shown next to a screen projection of binary code on March 28, 2018. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)
    In this file photo, a mobile device user is shown next to a screen projection of binary code on March 28, 2018. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

    The research involved experiments in which brainwaves were measured as people were put through a series of bad technology experiences. The experiments involved adults of many ages with different levels of computer skills.

    Subjects were tested with simple computer problems, like troubled sign-in operations. Others dealt with slow-speed connections to the internet. Still others experienced system crashes.

    "The moment people started using bad technology, we saw a doubling of their levels of stress," said Olivier Oullier, president of EMOTIV. "I was a bit surprised by that, because you rarely see those levels going so high," he told Reuters news agency.

    The experiments showed that technology-related stress had a lasting effect, Oullier added. "People don't relax back into calmness quickly. It takes a long time."

    In addition to tech failures affecting the mental health of employees, the problems can also affect a company's business, the research found.

    For example, bad problems can reduce productivity, especially that of younger workers. The research showed a thirty percent production drop among study subjects under age 40.

    "Bad experiences affect you regardless of computer literacy," said Cile Montgomery, who leads customer experience efforts for Dell. "But young people seem to be even more impacted, because they expect technology to work."

    As stressful as the tech problems were for those in the study, Oullier said, such effects were likely to be even more severe in the real world. He said the subjects knew they were involved in an experiment so they may not have been as personally affected by the results.

    Oullier also said the continuing coronavirus crisis has sharply increased stress levels around the world. So real tech problems drive up those already high stress levels.

    Another issue is that many employees are working remotely and this can also add to tech difficulties. In an office, computer support helpers are usually available to help workers solve tech problems. But working from a kitchen or home office, employees are often on their own.

    "When you're stuck at home and all you have is a computer provided by your employer, you might not have access to tech support," Oullier said. "That's why it's so important when you're remote, to have technology that works."

    Here are some specific findings of the study:

    The amount of work an employee can get done in a day can increase as much as 37 percent when effective technology is used, along with supporting software and services.

    Using good technology can save employees 23 minutes per hour.

    And on average, bad tech was found to interfere with employee performance by up to 30 percent.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Reuters and Dell Technologies reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    stress – n. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.

    a bit – n. a small amount

    relax – v. to become happy and comfortable because nothing is worrying you

    regardless – adv. without paying attention to the present situation

    literacy – n. having a good amount of knowledge or understanding about a subject

    impact – n. to affect someone or something

    remote – adj. far away, from a distance

    access – n. the ability to use or take part in something

    specific – adj. clearly and exactly presented or stated : precise or exact