Technology at work and the impact on staff wellbeing: it makes things easier…or does it?

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Author(s)

Department/unit(s)

Conference

ConferenceEuropean Academy of Occupational Health Psychology Conference
Conference date(s)2/09/204/09/20
Internet address

Publication details

DatePublished - 2020
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Increasingly, organisations are investing in new technologies (Kumar et al, 2013) due to the perceived benefits technology can bring for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. However, despite having implications in the longer term for the sustainability of workforces, how staff perceive the use of technology, and the impact this technology may have on staff wellbeing at work is currently under-researched. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with mental health care workers, this study explores ways in which technology impacts employee daily working lives, and examines the effects on employee wellbeing. With a contextual backdrop of increasing pressures in mental health care settings, (for example, increased acuity of patient illness, a growing move towards 12 hour shift working patterns), additional stressors may have a cumulative detrimental effect on
staff wellbeing. At a time when national healthcare systems are experiencing significant issues in recruitment and retention, poor staff wellbeing can jeopardise the sustainability of the workforce. A nuanced understanding of the way in which technology is used at work and is perceived by staff is therefore pertinent.

Thirty-five interviews were conducted with 3 layers of participants (ward managers, registered nurses and healthcare assistants) from a large mental health Trust in the UK to qualitatively evaluate employee perceptions of the use of technology in the workplace, and to explore the perceived impact on staff wellbeing. Key themes arose around how technology impacts daily working lives with reference to access to social and practical support, patient care, ease of use,
and quality of reporting. Drawing on the Job Demands-Resources model (Bakker and Demerouti, 2007), findings suggest that technology use could be perceived by staff as either a demand or a resource, depending on individual characteristics, such as age, experience or job role. Moreover, the same technology could be viewed positively or negatively by the same respondent contingent on whether the technology was perceived as a demand or a resource with respect to current
competing demands or access to resources in a dynamic workplace. For example, the use of technology to record patient notes removed staff from the ward and so was perceived as a negative demand, impacting patient care. However, on a particularly stressful shift, this technology use was viewed as a resource as it afforded participants the opportunity to leave the ward removing staff from a demanding environment.

This research contributes to extant literature with empirical data and analysis illuminating a nuanced impact of technology on workers and how this affects their wellbeing. The findings highlight, for example, how the introduction and use of technology intended as a resource can paradoxically exacerbate stress by placing demands on workers. Research recommendations suggest the need for evaluation of technology use at work in order to identify ways in which organisations can best use technology in the workplace to maximise efficiency whilst minimising
any potential negative impact on staff wellbeing.

Bibliographical note

Conference Book of Proceedings can be accessed here: http://www.eaohp.org/uploads/1/1/0/2/11022736/eaohp_2020_book_of_proceedings_final.pdf

    Research areas

  • technology, wellbeing, qualitative

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