This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become an essential part of both private and working time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ICTs became even more important, as many employees were required to work from home and organizations relied heavily on technology. Although ICTs provide considerable resources and can improve workplace flexibility, productivity, and efficiency, they are also demanding and can create pressure for individuals to be constantly accessible and responsive, fostering an always-on mentality.

This study examined how employees’ perceptions of ICTs as both resources (a tool that helps complete job tasks and makes life easier) and demands (something that requires steep mental resources and can be exhausting) impact employees’ perceived level of burnout. While burnout is colloquially understood, this study defines burnout as physical fatigue and cognitive weariness as well as increased cynicism and professional capabilities. The authors also analyzed the role of work-family balance and how job satisfaction is affected.

Three surveys were conducted in Austria. Two data sets were collected prior to the COVID-19 outbreak among employees from a university (n = 230) and a media company operating nationwide (n = 200). The third data set was collected at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and among a more general sample of the working population (n = 201). The samples included predominantly female participants (62.6%, 66.5%, and 64.2%, respectively). The average age for each sample varied from 35 to 42. Participants represented various organizational industries, with the largest samples from software and IT (10.9%), healthcare and social affairs (10.9%), and education (10.9%). Most participants reported an opportunity to work from home at the time of the survey (51.3%, 47.5%, and 82.6%, respectively).

Key Findings
1.) Overall, employees perceive ICTs more intensely as resources as opposed to demands, in that they saw the benefits of ICTs as tools more strongly than they felt that ICTs were negatively requiring too much of them.
2.) There was a connection between participants’ perceptions of ICTs as demands and their subsequent reported burnout.
3.) Although ICTs were found to be useful resources in the workplace, it was found that their usefulness did not have the ability to decrease or mitigate burnout, nor increase work-life balance.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should 1.) consider that the use of ICTs, particularly the reliance upon them, comes with a cost, 2.) avoid trying to compensate for overworking conditions through the use of ICT resources (compensating time off with working from home), and 3.) be aware that while ICTs themselves do not cause burnout, the demands of ICTs can increase burnout and also negatively impact employee health and cognitive fatigue.

Ninaus, K., Diehl, S., & Terlutter, R. (2021). Employee perceptions of information and communication technologies in work life, perceived burnout, job satisfaction and the role of work-family balance. Journal of Business Research, 136, 652-666.

Location of Article
This article is available online here.
(abstract free, purchase full article)

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