Communication technologies influence people’s personal and professional lives tremendously. As Nicole Long, Demand Media said in her article, “How Technology Affects Job Performance,” the use of communication technologies can help streamline organizational processes and improve employees’ productivity if managed effectively.
Email, instant messaging, laptops, and mobile phones, are among the most extensive technologies used by organizations adopting flexible work schedules (Hoeven, van Zoonen, & Fonner, 2016). They allow employees to communicate in an efficient way, obtain information and feedback immediately, address concerns and solve problems instantaneously, and thus perform in the workplace to the best of their ability (Long, 2016). Technology enables a wide range of work styles and preferences, such as flexible work arrangements, open-ofﬁce environments, telecommuting schedules, compressed work weeks, and teleconferencing facilities (Brough & O’Driscoll, 2010; Gajendran, Harrison, & Delaney-Klinger, 2015; Golden, 2013; Hing Lo, Van Breukelen, Peters, & Kok, 2014; Leslie, Manchester, Park, & Mehng, 2012; McElroy & Morrow, 2010). Despite the benefits associated with increased technological advancements, scholars and professionals have recognized some detrimental effects on employee well-being (Golden, 2013). Organizations and broader communities need to implement supportive policies and limit employees’ technology access during off-work hours (Hoeven et al., 2016).
With the wide use of information and communication technologies, employees feel empowered to access information at any time, in any place, and exchange it across temporal and physical boundaries (Golden, 2013). These technologies make the boundaries between employees’ work and personal life more permeable, leading to work expansion, stress spillover, and the incapability between efficiency in the workplace and the well-being greatly embraced in employees’ life outside of work (Brough & O’Driscoll, 2010; Gajendran et al., 2015; Hing Lo et al., 2014). Overall, researchers and professionals have stressed the importance of examining the way communication technology adversely affect employee well-being (Leslie et al., 2012; McElroy & Morrow, 2010), even when the technologies have actually increased their control over work (Golden, 2013).
Scholars have explored the theoretical reason—the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) Model—accounting for the opposing mechanisms underlying the relationship between the use of technologies and employee well-being (Golden, 2013; Hoeven et al., 2016). Physical, psychological, social, and organizational characteristics of any job can result in certain physical and psychological job demands that employees need to satisfy, and job resources that lessen the negative impact of those job demands can develop employees’ knowledge, skills, and abilities, promote personal growth and development, and reinforce the accomplishment of work goals (Menguc, Auh, Fisher, & Haddad, 2013). Drawing upon the JD-R model, researchers argued that information and communication technologies produce the concurrent advantages (i.e., resources) and challenges (i.e., demands) related to both positive and negative employee well-being consequences (e.g., employee burnout and engagement).
Some Practical Takeaways for Employee Communication Managers to Deal with the Impact of Communication Technologies upon Employees’ Well-Being:
Here is a summary of key practical implications that previous researchers (e.g., Golden, 2013; Hoeven et al., 2016; Jiang, Luo, & Kulemeka, in press) proposed based on their empirical studies:
- Employee communication executives play a significant role in helping the top management recognize the connection between the adoption of information and communication technologies and its consequences upon employee well-being.
- To fix the negative outcomes (e.g., burnout) and promote the positive ones (e.g., employee engagement), enterprises must cultivate an environment that supports accessibility and efficiency in technology-enabled communication practices, prevents excessive job interruptions and unpredictable work schedules, reduces information overload, and mitigates work stress.
- Organizations are expected to play an instructional role in accomplishing an appropriate balance between resources and demands that employees cope with.
- Family supportive policies, strategies, and initiatives are much-needed for both online and offline employees to balance their work and life outside of work. In particular, certain prevention programs should be in place to restrict interruptions and unpredictability and deconstruct the old structural expectations of an ideal employee.
- Maintaining heterogeneous communication practices (e.g., both technology-enhanced and face-to-face interpersonal) to limit constant connectivity is the healthy model for an organization’s long-term development and business success.
Hua Jiang, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in Department of Public Relations, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Follow her on Twitter @HuaJiangSU.
Brough, P., & O’Driscoll, M. P. (2010). Organizational interventions for balancing work and home demands: An overview. Work & Stress, 24, 280-297.
Gajendran, R. S., Harrison, D. A., & Delaney-Klinger, K. (2015). Are telecommuters remotely good citizens? Unpacking telecommuting’s effects on performance via I-deals and job resources. Personnel Psychology, 68, 353-393.
Golden, A. G. (2013). The structuration of information and communication technologies and work–life interrelationships: Shared organizational and family rules and resources and implications for work in a high-technology organization. Communication Monographs, 80(1), 101-123.
Hing Lo, S., van Breukelen, G. J. P., Peters, G. J. Y., & Kok, G. (2014). Teleconference use among ofﬁce workers: An interorganizational comparison of an extended theory of planned behavior model. Administrative Sciences, 4(1), 51-70.
Hoeven, C. L. T., van Zoonen, W., Fonner, K. L. (2016). The practical paradox of technology: The influence of communication technology use on employee burnout and engagement. Communication Monographs, 83(2), 239-263.
Jiang, H., Luo, Y., & Kulemeka, O. (in press). Social media use in strategic communication: Professionals’ perceived social media impact, leadership behaviors, and work-life conflict. International Journal of Strategic Communication.
Leslie, L. M., Manchester, C. F., Park, T. Y., & Mehng, S. A. (2012). Flexible work practices: A source of career premiums or penalties? Academy of Management Journal, 55, 1407-1428.
Long, N. (2016). How technology affects job performance. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/technology-affects-job-performance-13463.html
McElroy, J. C., & Morrow, P. C. (2010). Employee reactions to ofﬁce redesign: A naturally occurring quasi-ﬁeld experiment in a multi-generational setting. Human Relations, 63, 609-636.
Menguc, B., Auh, S., Fisher, M., & Haddad, A. (2013). To be engaged or not to be engaged: The antecedents and consequences of service employee engagement. Journal of Business Research, 66, 2163-2170.