As I arrive to my office, the first thing I do is check my email, which has become an unconscious habit as a way of prioritizing my tasks and, oftentimes, putting out fires. From there, I will take a plethora of remote meetings via popular video conferencing apps such as Zoom and WebEx. By the time I get home, I may quickly check my email again just to keep my head above the water. I might notice new potential collaborators, making it difficult to resist responding to their emails and justifying the extra communication efforts as just taking a few minutes of my personal time. Just like this, one can feel like the entire day revolves around technology in one form or another. This sentiment is not an uncommon phenomenon or experienced by a select few.

Technostress is the phenomenon of stress that is incurred from an increased reliance on technology and being unable to deal with it in a heathy, productive manner. Remarkably, the word “technostress” was coined by Brod in 1982. More recently, this term has been further contextualized with five creators of technostress: Techno-overload, techno-invasion, techno-complexity, techno-insecurity, and techno-uncertainty (Fischer et al., 2019). Each of these factors are distinct but may correlate with each other in specific ways. For example, techno-complexity and techno-uncertainty may occur when needing to learn and deal with new microscopy units and not getting the institutional support to utilize this innovation. Technostress is pertinent because many faculty and individuals in STEM are expected to be experts in new technological advancements. Beyond causing individuals to leave or avoid STEM careers, it can result in fear and anxiety about technological advancements. For many careers in STEM, avoiding technologies is simply not an option and can hurt professional reputations and self-esteem.

Therefore, I want to highlight ways to deal with technostress in STEM. On an individual level, practicing relaxation and mediation techniques can be invaluable, especially when getting frustrated with technology. However, to create structural changes, the STEM community needs greater adjustments than simply “taking a breather.” For example, mentors can change their style to prioritize work-life balance and hosting new courses that encourage new viewpoints that see technology as a tool rather than a threat. Additionally, institutional leaders need to recognize the toll that technostress may place on individuals. While it may be more cost effective to require PIs to perform all their microscopy, this can result in a burnout especially for junior or more novice faculty. Therefore, dedicated resources such as microscopy core units can help by not stretching labs too thin and reduce the technological learning curve.

Technostress is an issue that I believe will demand more attention and solutions as time progresses. Furthermore, as remote work and hybrid schedules become more prevalent in STEM, and technologies such as R, python, and machine learning become more typical, dedicated researchers should pay more attention to technostress. There are mental and physical health issues that technostress may cause, which may often be overlooked (Dragano & Lunau, 2020). Therefore, research on how technostress affects individuals, how to identify its causes, and how to reduce them, will only become increasingly important in the future for research, development, and innovation to continue in STEM (Murray et. al., 2022).

References:

Brod, C. (1982). Managing technostress: Optimizing the use of computer technology. Personnel Journal, 61(10), 753–757.

Dragano, N., & Lunau, T. (2020). Technostress at work and mental health: Concepts and research results. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 33(4), 407–413.

Fischer, T., Pehböck, A., & Riedl, R. (2019, February 27). Is the Technostress Creators Inventory Still an Up-To-Date Measurement Instrument? Results of a Large-Scale Interview Study.

Murray, S. A., Shuler, H. D., Davis, J. S., Spencer, E. C., & Hinton, A. O., Jr (2022). Managing technostress in the STEM world. Trends in biotechnology40(8), 903–906. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tibtech.2022.05.001

More Resources:

Finding Your Science Flow: Yoga Lessons to Increase Productivity

Balancing on the Edge

The Importance of Patching the Leaks in the STEM Pipeline

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