- Study finds that computer problems spike stress levels by a lot.
- Bad technology causes ingrained deterioration in wellness and work performance with lasting consequences.
- There are ways to destress from good and bad tech while working from home.
There’s nothing more frustrating than your computer not cooperating and having no one around to help you fix it.
Technical difficulties are a sure way to bring on stress and anxiety and put the pressure on productivity.
If this sounds like your life working remotely for the last year, you’re not alone.
“The extraordinary times we’re living in exacerbate the effect. Companies and schools rapidly shifted to remote work, displacing people from their colleagues, teachers, offices, schools, and IT support,” Cile Montgomery, customer experience lead at Dell Technologies, told Healthline.
“We are more reliant than ever on our computers to engage with the outside world. Bad technology only isolates us further, adding to an already stressful situation.”
To uncover the emotional toll of computer problems, Dell Technologies and neuroscience company EMOTIV conducted a study that analyzed people’s brain waves.
The research found that at the onset of computer problems, the stress levels of participants spiked significantly. In fact, researchers reported that the anxiety level was comparable to asking someone to sing in public or being forced to hold their hand in an ice bucket while doing mental arithmetic.
Moreover, it took participants three times longer to relax and recover from the stress peaks.
Additionally, the study found ingrained deterioration in wellness and work performance with lasting consequences if the stress levels weren’t addressed.
“Many of us have the expectation that technology is going to work, so when something out of the ordinary happens that interrupts our relationship with technology, it’s not surprising to see a negative, emotional impact,” said Montgomery.
“This is exacerbated when someone is under a deadline, or when bad tech causes them to lose the time and effort they’ve put in.”
In contrast, the study showed that good tech amplified productivity. When participants worked with good technology, they experienced a 37 percent boost in performance, saving 3 hours of lost productivity in an 8-hour workday.
“The feeling from using good tech was equivalent to watching puppy videos with short- and long-term benefits,” said Montgomery.
Whether bad technology is causing your frustration or simply being on it too much is creating stress, here are five ways that experts say can help you destress from your devices.
With remote work, many workers have flexibility, which can be beneficial. However, Melanie Shmois, licensed social worker and life coach, suggests planning your day.
“When we plan our day and set the intention for our day, we recruit our higher-level brain that has our best interest in mind. When we don’t plan, we are more likely to act on impulse and engage in behaviors that are not in alignment with our goals and desires for our life,” Shmois told Healthline.
Plan out your workdays the night before, and include when you’ll take breaks from technology, leaving some room for flexibility if things don’t go exactly as you envisioned.
“Make sure you’re in charge of technology versus having technology being in charge of you,” said Shmois.
While it’s tempting to stop working on a project and respond immediately to messages you receive throughout the day, Shmois says resist.
“It feels productive, but studies have shown that this is actually less productive because we lose focus and have to reorient ourselves to the original task we were working on before we got distracted,” Shmois said.
Instead, she says carve out the time in your schedule to tackle all of your emails and messages.
Because sitting for 8 hours a day isn’t good for physical or mental health, Shmois recommends setting an alarm at the top or bottom of the hour to motivate you to get up and move around.
“Our bodies are meant to move… Walk around and stretch, even for just a couple minutes,” she said.
Montgomery agrees, noting that it’s easy to log in long hours in front of the computer during the pandemic because the usual 9-to-5 workday is obsolete.
“There’s not a lot of cushion in our days — gathering around the water cooler, stepping away for lunch, or an informal chat with a colleague… There’s more of a need to plan relaxing activities and breaks since they don’t happen as naturally as they used to,” she said.
Walking away from the computer at a certain time each day or every time you complete an assignment or send an email are good options, Montgomery suggests. She also recommends trying to keep set work hours.
To keep your computer running smoothly, Montgomery recommends regularly refreshing your technology hardware and software every 3 years.
“It’s important that machines perform well on their own, are easy to use, and easy to manage,” she said.
Keeping systems updated is one way to ensure they work efficiently.
“[That] means automatically updating applications and drivers, or having an IT workflow in place to approve and stage updates. This will ensure your device runs more effectively and protect against any cyberattack that might knock you offline,” said Montgomery.
If you use social media for work or turn to it for quick breaks from work, Shmois says try to consciously set the intention for your use, so you don’t get lost scrolling on your feeds.
“I recommend setting a timer for 5 to 10 minutes and set an intention,” she said.
For example, your intention could be to respond to comments made on your business page, connect with business acquaintances on LinkedIn, or to wish your Facebook friends a happy birthday,
“Afterwards, when the time is up, shut it down and resume all other activities of daily living,” Shmois said.