A significant shift has occurred in the American workplace over the past 40 years.
In previous generations, a professional had a tendency to work for the same company — or at least perform the same type of job — over an entire career.
Loyalty to job, industry, and company were considered fairly important.
As time has progressed and cultural changes have occurred, loyalty — at least in this traditional sense — has been replaced by the insatiable urge for change.
This desire to see and do new things is especially rampant among millennial professionals, who are making up an increasingly large portion of the job market. And while this quest for novel opportunities might seem like a good thing, it’s actually having a profoundly negative impact, in the form of job burnout.
At the center of this issue is a debate over whether or not technology has a role in this burgeoning trend.
What Is Burnout?
"It plays out in different ways for different people, but job burnout is essentially a state of exhaustion and fatigue – mentally, physically, or emotionally — that typically occurs in environments where there’s prolonged stress, frustration, or repetitiveness," Ridgeline Partners explains.
In fact, job burnout is so commonplace in today’s workplace that 95 percent of HR leaders believe it’s sabotaging efforts to retain employees.
There are numerous factors involved in job burnout — some are able to be influenced by employers and others are uncontrollable — but one of the more interesting debates rages around the idea of technology.
Is it a hindrance or a help?
Technology as the Problem
One school of thought suggests that technology is the problem.
While it certainly has some benefits — which will be discussed in the following section — it’s a double-edged sword. "In most cases, technology can actually make the workplace more dysfunctional. It keeps employees constantly working, even after they leave the office, leading to burnout and health problems," entrepreneur Marcel Schwantes writes.
Technology can also be a major distracting force.
It’s easy for an employee to sit in his cubicle and get distracted by social media. Even something that’s designed for the workplace — such as LinkedIn — can cause employees to look around and think, “It sure does seem like everyone else is having more fun and making more money.”
In this sense, it’s problematic.
Technology as the Solution
But not everyone sees it this way. Though there are some downsides, plenty of positives exist as well. To many, technology is the solution to curbing burnout rates and engaging employees at meaningful levels.
Companies often find that employees enjoy the freedom of remote working and telecommuting, which creates a break from the boredom of spending 40-plus hours in a cubicle each week.
"With telecommuting, businesses typically see an increase in employee productivity and a far better use of time during working hours," HR expert Alysia de Saxe writes. "After all there’s no longer a daily commute or the hassle of bringing people together for meetings. Traditional time-intensive tasks and workplace obligations can be completed very efficiently, no matter how remotely employees are working."
Technology can also be used in a number of other ways to keep employees excited and engaged. Here are a few examples:
There are countless apps and software solutions on the market that streamline mundane tasks and automate them so that employees can focus on more creative challenges.
- Companies can use any number of gamification solutions to stimulate employees to be productive and successful. This often gives employees the chance to tap into deeper levels of intrinsic motivation.
- With the help of advanced programs, human resources departments have the ability to monitor employee engagement and satisfaction virtually in real time. This enables them to adjust, tweak, and shift management styles to account for the individual and ever-evolving needs of the team.
- These are just a few practical examples. In forward-thinking businesses, there’s plenty of room to address employee engagement through technology and influence it in a positive manner.
Balancing Technology in the Workplace
Clearly, there are pros and cons of technology in the workplace as it relates to employee burnout. From a management perspective, the key is to understand your employees and create a company culture that prioritizes engagement and removes as many of the aforementioned friction points as possible. Technology has a role in leading an office, but don’t assume that it’s always the answer.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant.Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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