Employee Wellbeing, Technology | Article

How to Help Employees Fight Tech Fatigue

Technology has brought improved productivity and opportunities to stay connected, especially during the pandemic. But it has also brought stress and fatigue.

Most of us with smartphones already have (what feels like) a million apps. Then add in all the ones we have on our phones and computers for work, and it can feel a bit overwhelming. We’re in an era of digital overload and it’s wearing employees out.

Tech fatigue, Zoom fatigue, burnout…whatever name you call it, we need to do what we can to fight it. Here are seven tips for leaders:

1. Take time to reflect

Evaluate your organization’s culture and the way tech is talked about by employees. Are people talking about the negative or positive impacts it has? Even more importantly, what types of implicit messages are leaders sending? They should be modeling the behaviors they want other employees to adopt. If responding after hours might lead to tech fatigue, managers should try to avoid sending emails after hours. Employees may feel they need to respond immediately.

Another thing to reflect on is if your company has any rigid policies surrounding tech. One example is requiring employees to have their cameras turned on for all meetings. This can easily drain them or contribute to tech fatigue. Some meetings or calls can be accomplished just the same without video, so avoid strict rules and trust your employees’ discretion.

2. Train every employee

A common mistake when it comes to tech in the workplace is lack of training. When introducing new technology (it could be a whole system or just a single tool) provide sufficient training for all employees. Don’t just assume certain people will automatically know how to use it. Walk through not only how to use it effectively in day-to-day work, but also the “why” behind it. Employees who understand reasons why a technology benefits them and their organization are more likely to adopt it.

3. Conduct an app audit

Periodically audit the technology your organization is utilizing. This can help you identify areas of concern or friction. Look for ways you can cut down on the amount of apps used because too many can be a bad thing. In fact, a Firstup survey revealed more than half of employees feel overwhelmed when receiving communication through too many different channels.

Ask and answer these questions about your apps about once per year:

  • Does it reduce friction for our employees?
  • Is it still adding value for us?
  • Is there another tool we already use that would make this simpler?

Once you determine apps that can be cut, commit to following through. Cutting down on the amount of tech you have can increase efficiency and be less overwhelming for your employees.

4. Continue to communicate

Unsurprisingly, one of the things you can do to help employees fight tech fatigue is consistently communicate with them. Seek their input so you know what areas are receiving positive versus negative feedback. In some environments, employees may be hesitant to share what apps they resent. Create an open environment in which team members feel safe being honest. One day to do so is making sure leaders are pointing out when they see friction being caused by certain tech. They can reassure them that solutions are being worked out while asking for further feedback.

5. Offer – and even demand – downtime

Leaders can help their direct reports carve out “downtime.” This might look like a couple of hours to concentrate on a task without any calls, virtual meetings, or other interruptions. Encourage your employees to have blocks of time on their calendar for this type of focused time. Set the example by doing so yourself as well. Simply offering this to your employees may not stick. You can set rules in place that build focused time or true downtime (not working at all) for your people. It could be as simple as “no online lunch meetings.”

6. Think differently for fully remote employees

Addressing tech fatigue may be more difficult when it comes to fully remote employees. They don’t get to have in-office days where all their meetings can be in person. While the remote environment is bound to be more “tech-forward,” there are still ways to minimize fatigue. Consider establishing a no meeting day that recurs every week. For example, “No Meeting Wednesdays” would give remote employees at least one day per week that they can count on having no virtual meetings. This will also give space for people to do deeper work.

7. Make some tech fun

Help alleviate tech fatigue by adding in some fun tech features. It could be an internal social feed where employees can share positive moments or recognize one another. Some features, like eCards, can even be integrated directly into apps you already have such as Microsoft Teams or Outlook. Not every app and tech feature you have needs to be boring or task-related. Switching things up can be refreshing and energizing for employees!

When employees experience tech fatigue, it can cause employee engagement, productivity, and retention to all suffer. But tech doesn’t have to be draining. Leaders and HR pros have an important role to play in minimizing employees’ fatigue and maximizing their energy.