2022 National Wellness Study – Part II: Technostress
This is the second post in the series on The National Study on the Psychological Health Determinants of Legal Professionals in Canada published by the Université de Sherbrooke, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Canadian Bar Association in December 2022 (the “Report”).
In this post we will be discussing the phenomenon of technostress as explored in the Report.
Before we dive into the topic of technostress, we want you to take a moment to stop and consider the range and types of technology you utilize in your everyday practice – from emails, internal messages, phone calls, social media and networking applications, to cell phones, printers, photocopiers, laptops, individual web-based applications, and software including filing, accounting, document management, and time recording software.
Does this list leave you feeling a little overwhelmed? You are not alone. The Report found that lawyers often feel overwhelmed by the technology we use, so much so that it is a primary stressor in our daily lives.
So, what is technostress, exactly?
Technostress refers to the stress and pressure individuals feel from our increased use of technology. The psychological consequences of technostress result in individuals feeling higher levels of perceived stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, psychological distress, and increased feelings of burnout.
How do we become technostressed?
Technostress mainly stems from the following three attributes of technology use:
1. Technology’s utility and efficiency results in an increased pressure to adopt and keep up with technological advancements because of its usefulness, complexity, and reliability.
2. The rate at which technology evolves leads to conflicting work and learning requirements as we try to adapt and navigate new technologies while continually meeting billable and performance targets.
3. The intrusiveness of technology caused by increased connectivity intensifies the pressure to remain accessible and to avoid feeling guilty when we are not available.
Types of technostress
The Report outlines the following types of technostress:
Communication overload: our attention and knowledge are solicited through multiple means such as email, texts and phone calls, causing excessive interruptions resulting in lower productivity.
Work-home conflict: the pressure to remain connected even after leaving work by means of text, internal messaging, networking, and emails.
Information overload: individuals are presented with more information than they have time or cognitive ability to process.
Work overload: individuals are pressured to work faster and longer to remain competitive.
Who is the most at risk of technostress?
The Report found that lawyers and Quebec notaries are the most at risk of technostress.
The Report also found that mothers between the ages of 36 and 40 are more likely to experience technostress than their male counterparts.
We would argue that this type of stress likely affects most people working within the legal industry – management, paralegals, legal administrative assistance and staff – as we are all subject to the same technologies and a lot of the same pressures.
What can we do to mitigate technostress?
Technology has crept into many aspects of our lives, and it requires conscious effort to control and reduce our technology use. Some simple measures to decrease feelings of technostress include: technology training and refresher courses, taking regular breaks from screens, reducing unnecessary communications, limiting the number of programs used to complete tasks, and turning off your devices at a certain time each day.
Make sure you subscribe to LiL’s social media channels to stay informed of our series highlighting key findings of the Report. If you have any suggestions, or wish to contribute to the series, please contact Grace Smyth-Bolland or Karina Alibhai.
About the Authors
Karina Alibhai is an associate with Harper Grey LLP and works with their Commercial Litigation and Construction Groups. Karina joined Harper Grey as an articling student in 2020, completed her articles with the firm and was called to the BC bar in 2021. She received her bachelor’s degree, from McGill University in 2017, where she focused her studies on International Development. Karina attended law school at Thompson Rivers University and graduated in 2020.
Grace Smyth-Bolland is an associate with Harper Grey LLP and works with their Business Law Group. Grace joined Harper Grey as an articling student in 2021, completed her articles with the firm and was called to the BC bar in 2022. She completed her law and philosophy degrees at Adelaide University in 2015 and 2016. Grace immigrated to Canada from Australia in 2017 after spending some time in South America, the US, and the Middle East.