Information technology has in recent years been viewed as a major contributor to productivity growth. However, in 14 studies that examined the IT use of more than 3,100 employees in 28 organizations in the United States, the authors found a dark side to IT use.
Employees can experience “technostress” for a number of reasons. They feel forced to multitask rapidly on simultaneous streams of information from different devices simply because information feeds come at them in real time; remote work and flextime can tether them round the clock to their devices and workplaces; and short technology cycles and pressures from IT vendors mean constantly changing interfaces, screens and functionalities. Ironically, even as they dream of escaping from IT, many employees also confess to feeling “addicted” to some of these stress-causing technologies. Another aspect of the dark side of IT is the threat of employees misusing organizational IT resources and triggering “attacks” of different kinds.
To mitigate these problems, the authors suggest that senior executives should encourage employees to be mindful about how they use IT and to develop a deeper understanding of the IT they use at work. The authors also argue that a company’s IT leaders have a special responsibility to instruct their organization about pertinent aspects of IT systems and applications that could either exacerbate or mitigate their more negative effects.
HR leaders, meanwhile, should start to assess the extent to which employees are experiencing “technostress” or technology addiction and develop programs that encourage responsible IT use. Fortunately, the authors note, a holistic and integrated approach by a company’s senior executives, IT leaders and HR leaders can help mitigate the most damaging consequences of the dark side of information technology.