Do you find frequent notifications and interruptions disturbing? Do you feel that you are never free of technology? Is technology at times too complex to use?

Answers to these questions can reflect technostress, which means stress caused by the use of technology. Here, stress refers to a situation where a person perceives they have insufficient resources for dealing with the demands of the situation.

Technostress is common and can have severe consequences.

Prior research has found that technostress can negatively influence a person’s well-being, concentration, work productivity, work quality and commitment to one’s employer as well as contribute to burnout.

How does technostress emerge?

Technostress can emerge in various forms.

Typically, these include technological overload (e.g., too much technology and information), invasion (e.g., disturbance from notifications and interruptions), complexity (e.g., difficulties in using and learning to use technology) and uncertainty (e.g., challenges adapting to constant technological changes).

Interruptions and information overload are common at work, while overdependence on one’s smartphone and comparing one’s life to the lives of others displayed on social media can cause technostress during free time. Technology also blurs the boundaries between work and other areas of life, especially when working remotely. Furthermore, new technological developments and the appearance of all-around, pervasive technology can create new forms of technostress.

Can one mitigate technostress?

Contemporary smart devices and applications include characteristics and features that create favorable conditions for technostress to emerge: digital content feeds are continuously updated, technology can reach people whenever and wherever with real-time notifications, people can access almost limitless information and everyday environments are filled with technological devices and applications. At the same time, these characteristics and features promote continuous, increased and frequent use, which is often desirable from the designers’ and providers’ perspective. That is why the “technostress problem” is difficult to solve.

Users can, however, influence their own technostress.

According to our studies, useful ways to mitigate technostress include modifying the technology (e.g., by personalizing settings and content) and modifying one’s own use routines (e.g., by taking breaks, developing “rules” for use routines or designating technology-free times and/or areas). Users can also think about and change their own reactions to technology: Has technology became too much of a priority over other aspects of life? Could one learn to take a calmer attitude regarding, for example, notifications and interruptions?

Associate Professor, Information Systems Markus Salo
Faculty of Information Technology, University of Jyväskylä

We study technostress and users’ ways to mitigate it with Henri Pirkkalainen from Tampere University and other collaborators. We have focused on stress from the psychological perspective, although its physiological side can also be examined. Moreover, we have focused on negative technostress due to its harmful effects, but stress can also reflect a positive dimension (e.g., excitement to overcome challenges).

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