Meeting the stress challenge for tech exhausted workers

The obsession with checking emails outside of work hours is making workers more stressed and less productive.

Tech-stress may be a relatively new phenomenon in the corporate world, however it is also the latest in a long line of issues which have a significant impact on the performance of today’s employees. Largely a symptom of the ‘always on’ culture that stems from the nation’s growing reliance on digital devices, tech-stress is reported to be placing additional pressure on the corporate world as many workers struggle to switch off and relax.  

According to the 2016 Quality of Working Life study carried out by the Chartered Management Institute, employees are now working 29 days extra a year and are suffering rising levels of stress. Citing an apparent ‘tech-addiction’, the study found that this obsession with checking emails outside of work hours is making workers more stressed and less productive. 

We can all see the irony in the fact that technology is generally developed and evolves to make life easier.    

Technology-related meeting stress 

One area of the work place where tech-stress is perhaps the most apparent is the meeting room. In a recent study commissioned by Barco and carried out by technology market research firm Vanson Bourne, results showed that unreliable or unfriendly technology does add to the stress of the meeting room scenario.    

The survey, which gauged the attitudes of 1,000 office workers from around the world toward meeting room technology, found that 90 per cent of respondents said they had suffered technology-related stress in meetings. In addition, more than half experienced inefficiencies that impacted on performance, the effectiveness of the meeting and wasted time, all due to issues with the technology. 

Another finding showed that four out of 10 actually experience anger and frustration as a result of unreliable technology, with one-third of respondents saying they experienced decreased morale.   

Missed deadlines and opportunities  

While it’s not a leap to suggest office workers do experience technology issues, what the study also found was that the negative impact of unreliable technology often extended beyond the meeting room. Almost one-quarter of respondents (24 per cent) had missed a deadline or important actions as a result of malfunctioning meeting room technology, others said they had missed out on a sale or winning business, or even missed personal opportunities, such as credit or promotions.   

A stressful state of mind  

Evidently, stress is not just a matter of opinion either — the research also included a study by MindLab International, a neuromarketing and market research company, into the emotional and physiological implications of meeting room technology struggles. Unsurprisingly, the study showed that participants’ peak stress levels were 63 per cent higher when technology problems occurred in meetings than when meetings ran smoothly. 

The physiological findings showed that participants’ heart rates reached 179bpm when they were trying to hold a meeting and the technology they were using did not work. Considering that resting heart rates fall between 60-100 bpm, the exceedingly high 179bpm is a key indicator of serious stress.   

Sharing and collaboration    

The meeting room set up is also critical to facilitating a key aspect of modern business — collaboration. Rather than organisations having to tackle the negative impact of technology in meetings, now is the time that companies could be harnessing the benefits it brings to boost meeting room performance, collaboration and the productivity of employees.    

Collaboration in meeting and training rooms has evolved beyond recognition during the last few years. In the past, perhaps just one person would bring content to present or discuss – either on paper, as a PowerPoint presentation, or in any other carrier – and the others would listen. That changed with the prolific use of personal and digital devices in the workplace. The challenge now is that every meeting participant wants to bring their own content to the table and share it with the other attendees in a quick and easy way. 

In other words, meeting room technology should not be creating the stress levels evidenced it the survey - it needs to be upgraded and brought into to the BYOD era.   

Collaboration between teams, colleagues, and prospects forms a vital part of today’s business environment so there is value in ensuring participants get the most from the technology that enables these meetings. In fact, the Barco study also showed that the vast majority (86 per cent) of participants believe that improving meeting room technology would lead to an increase in productivity.   

The meeting room solution 

There were many thought-provoking findings for IT managers, particularly as part of the research was dedicated to exploring the best solution to the technology conundrum in meeting rooms. Respondents selected their top five technology capabilities that they thought would make a meeting run smoother and these included one-touch technology (51 per cent), wireless technology with no cables (44 per cent), sharing data with ease from any device (44 per cent), easily conferencing with colleagues from different locations (40 per cent) and high quality picture and sound (39 per cent).    

Tech-stress is evidently affecting employees in the working environment and the levels are seemingly being exacerbated the second they set foot in the meeting room. In this critical space for collaboration, the usability of technology is the solution to avoiding stress and addressing issues such as compatibility, wireless capability and ease of sharing.  

Effective technology should be at the heart of the meeting room challenge, encouraging more productive and collaborative performances and balancing the heart-rates of any attendees.

 Lieven Bertier, head of product management ClickShare at Barco