New Technology and Its Impact on Well-Being

Today we have a really interesting post for today. As always, the goal for this initiative is to: 

  • Provide value to our VIPs and readers, and to
  • Pass along key and actionable findings from the most recent journal articles

Why is this so important?

Everywhere you look, new technology seems to be growing at an exponential rate. Technology is often integrated into our work as a means of improved efficiency. We are either doing more with less or changing from an active position to more of a monitoring position. This can impact how content employees are with their job, the level of cheerfulness at the workplace, and on health factors such as back pain, muscle pain, and headaches. Technology changes can lead to some challenges for some people and for this reason should be managed intently. In a previous article, we discussed that when psychosocial risks are mismanaged, then that could lead to a greater risk of developing a ergonomic injury at work. Sometimes people working in high technology work environments are working under a more psychosocial and physical strain.

What are psychosocial risk factors? Psychosocial factors refer to the non-physical aspects of the job. There are a number of inter-related social factors that can affect and impact workers’ psychological response to their work and workplace conditions. Research has consistently shown that psychosocial risks in the workplace can affect mental health and increase the risk of injury by:

  • Increasing the stress hormone (cortisol)
  • Increasing muscle tension (for example, tension in the shoulders after a particularly stressful day)
  • Increasing force exertion (for example the force used to type will generally increase with more work stress)
  • Disturbing sleep (necessary for muscles to recover)
  • Additionally, the worker may skip breaks to keep on task leading to a reduction of muscle rest and recovery time

The specific psychosocial risk factors that have the highest association with the development of  injury are:

  • Low work support: the worker considers support they receive from co-workers to be low. It may be caused by little or no help from colleagues or supervisors
  • Low job satisfaction: the worker feels low contentment about their work
  • High work demand: the affect of the mental requirements of the job, It may be caused by working very fast, intensely, high time pressures, and/or high information processing demands.

What you can implement today

New technology can lead to some negative impacts on the well-being of workers. With its inclusion into the workplace, be aware that when a person’s decision authority is the lowest, the job strain is likely the highest.

Employers and managers should empower their employees when considering new technology is used. The way in which work is integrated with the new technology is more important than the mere presence of technology in the workplace.

Examples of successful technology implementation strategies that I have seen in many workplaces are:

  • ‘Lunch and Learns’ (with free lunch!) that overview the technology at a few important times. These steps are particularly important as long as upper management incorporates reasonable suggestions and comments from staff into their next steps. These steps are:
    • Before the technology is integrated into the workplace,
    • During the technology launch, and
    • After the launch, during the technology maintenance.
  • Peer-to-Peer coaching during the technology maintenance phase.
  • Continue to encourage open communication between front-line employees and management, outside of the typical ‘lunch and learns’ presentations

Empowerment and Ergonomics

Source

Work 22 (2004) 31–39 31 New technology and its impact on well being Gudbjorg Linda Rafnsdottir∗ and Margret Lilja Gudmundsdottir

Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!

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