Author(s), Title and Publication

Ter Hoeven, C. L., 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, DOI: 10.1080/03637751.2015.1133920.


Technological advancements in the workplace frequently have produced contradictory effects by facilitating accessibility and efficiency while increasing interruptions and unpredictability.

To shed light on how the use of communication technology in the workplace influences employee engagement and productivity, this study presented a model identifying positive and negative mechanisms in the relationship between communication technology use (CTU) and employee well-being. Specifically, the authors argued that CTU could produce a specific set of advantages (i.e., resources) and disadvantages (i.e., demands) related to employee burnout and engagement.

Through a random sample survey of 663 Dutch employees from a wide range of industries and occupations, the study found that CTU is associated with both job demands and resources that have contradicting impact on employee’s well being. The positive mechanism is that CTU leads to the efficacy of communication and accessibility, which are positively associated with employee engagement and negatively related to employee burnout. The negative mechanism is that CTU causes unpredictability and interruption, which in turn, lead to lower engagement and higher burnout. In other words, while CTU enables employees to communicate quickly and efficiently, regardless of time and space, it can simultaneously hinder the work process due to increased interruptions and unpredictable work developments. Despite the paradox, this study also showed that the positive process that leads to employee engagement in using CTU is stronger than the negative process that leads to employee burnout.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should consider CTU’s downsides when implementing new communication technologies and flexible work designs. They also should sustain leadership and cultural expectations that support accessibility and efficient communication through technology, and protect employees from constant interruptions and unpredictable work schedules. Finally, they should implement work–life initiatives that help employees prevent information overload and mitigate stress from interruptions.

Location of Article

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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