Individual Differences and Individual Impact
It is not always the case that we consider individual differences when we think of the crossover of technology use and workplace norms.
A few individual differences that we may need to consider when thinking about how workers can differ when it comes to technology use in the workplace.
Our personality type plays a role in how we ‘do work’ and how we manage remote working.
- Along with Introverts (who tend to get their energy from being alone), Conscientious types are also better able to manage remote and hybrid working long-term and are more likely to be efficient and productive
- Introverts are less likely to want to return to the office full-time because constant office interaction, especially in open-plan offices, is exhausting work for them
- Extroverts, however, find remote working more difficult. They tend to need regular human contact and engagement with others to drive their energy levels up. They tend to get lonely and bored when working alone. They are therefore more likely to distract themselves by setting up more online meetings, engaging in more email and messaging apps and clicking on dodgy spam emails and text links, thereby substantially reducing productivity levels. They are also more likely to return to the office full-time and view remote work as unproductive and inefficient.
Life Stage Perspective
There is a long-standing workplace narrative that younger generations are better at technology than older generations. This is no longer true. The so-called ‘Digital Natives’ are now moving into middle and senior management positions.
Additionally, although younger generations are more confident with social technology, they are less knowledgeable about business technology.
Where younger generations have an advantage over the older generations is that their overall higher tech confidence (i.e. digital self-efficacy) makes them more likely to learn new technology quickly.
Digital Intelligence is of greater value now than generational differences.
Working Parents Have a Tougher Gig
Hybrid working is, on average, a better option for working parents. Remote working gives them the opportunity to manage both work and home responsibilities more effectively, especially when given the option to work flexibly and chunk their day into home and work slots.
However, there still remains some interesting diametrically opposing gender expectations and biases that working parents have to juggle:
- For fathers, societal shifts encourage them to engage more in family life – which many want to do. Company expectations, however, still see fathers as the primary breadwinner, showing dedication to their families and employers by working longer hours. Heading home early is interpreted as not being a team player and means they are often overlooked when it comes to promotions and training opportunities. Hybrid work allows fathers to juggle both roles more successfully
- Working mothers may either not return to the workplace or face their own set of biases if they do. Working only contracted hours is interpreted as lower productivity, being less of a team player and not aligning with personal goals with team goals. If they, however, spend longer in the office, they are viewed as cold, heartless and not a very good mother.
Contrary to this workplace bias, research shows that mothers are particularly good at focusing and separating out their work and home time. They have to be fully present in each area of responsibility and are, as a result, actually more productive with their shorter working hours or work time than any other type of employee – regardless of gender, relationship status and number of hours worked. This was as true before Covid as it has been since then.
The Implications of Overwork
Stress and anxiety are often directly associated with overwork and heightened demands in a role. We will often embrace these factors as outliers of a strain on mental health.
But, we don’t often talk about how job stress and overwork impact us in the area of burnout – the end result of extended periods of job-related stress and anxiety.
In early 2023, Dr Rangan Chatterjee posted a video specifically on the effects of burnout – on the emotions, the mind and the body. It is worth a watch.
What other research has pointed out is that we don’t know we are on the road to burnout, until we burn out.
When we are spending excessive time and focus on ensuring we don’t drop the ball at work, the first thing we sacrifice is our free/play time and time with friends. The next thing to go is how much time we spend sleeping and looking after ourselves. Both of these we rationalise as necessary and short-lived ‘just to get through this bit’.
The final thing to be sacrificed before we burn out is time with family. This is the final sign that we are heading rapidly towards burnout, and need to reassess how we are balancing our work, home and play lives.
The signs of burnout:
- Getting annoyed by small requests
- Becoming more cynical and judgemental about things
- Having mini-outbursts of anger at home
- Noticing a lower performance at work – which shows up as a lack of creativity
- Sensing an inability to gain pleasure from simple everyday things that previously sparked enjoyment
- Engaging in procrastination – going over the same thing repeatedly and an inability to make decisions
- Feeling physically tired – no get-up and go
- Noticing that self-care starts to disappear – not eating well, comfort eating, neglecting good food choices and personal hygiene
- Reducing overall moving and reducing activities that get blood pumping through the body