Since March 2020, most of you have been relying more than usual on technology, or you may know people who started using technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, technology and technological solutions and software have made it possible for many to work remotely. Depending on the work you do you may have transitioned back to a traditional work setting, in an office setting. However, there is one thing that was not largely spoken about at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, or in general that has been on the rise since switching most of our lives online and being more dependent than ever on technology - this is called technology strain and exhaustion.
In the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), this is characterized add mental exhaustion, decrease in motivation, memory issues and an increase of stress. The term that the DSM-5 uses to describe this type of stress is called technostress which can contribute to more symptoms later as the dependency on technology persists.
Think about your life and your typical workdays before the COVID-19 pandemic and before technology became intrinsic in staying connected and not the ‘coffee station’ or ‘water cooler’! Some of us woke up, got ready and checked the weather or Facebook on our devices then we would head to work for our normal commute to the office. Whether your workplace and work environment were technology based or not, you still had the in-person partnerships and relationships with your colleagues which diminished and lessened the amount of technology stress on your work-life balance. At the end of the day, some of us may have been prone to switch on the television, Netflix, or a gaming system, shortly after arriving home from work. However, the time between departing from work and arriving home - carpooling, public transportation, grocery shopping or general shopping - strongly contributed it to in-person relationships/communication with others, this even includes going out for dinner with a friend or family member or your significant other; provided a disconnect from technology, decreasing the possible Technostress interference.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started (for most, since March 2020) and we experienced closures (businesses, schools, etc.) and reduced opportunities of going out and socially participating as a community, we relied increasingly on technology to stay in contact and to keep informed of what is going on. For those working from home, it disrupted the work-life balance. Many individuals have said that they are putting in longer hours at work than usual while at their home because certain indications and cues from others were no longer present. Examples include going for lunch with work colleagues or going on a short break - as humans, we rely heavily on certain in-person cues from others to create our own habits and to have that balance. It is no surprise that the DSM-5 has an article and clarification on technostress as we are aware that technology, watching TV or using devices, close to times of rest or times of sleep decreases the amount of quality sleep that we experience.
Granted, this is not true for some; many of us were able to keep the work-life and technology balance in order throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but it took a long time for some of us to be able to adapt to this ‘new normal’ and this new type of work and life balance. This is especially true for those who had a high dependency on technology at home - prior to the new normal and the changes that have impacted our world. Technostress and the feeling of stress over technology and technology exhaustion can be reduced by finding ways in which you can still maintain relationships without the requirement of technology, especially with the physical distancing conditions being lifted in our region, finding other pastimes that do not rely on technology, or finding new hobbies in which you can do in your day-to-day life. The holiday season can also introduce other stressors! … With that, we hope that you find ‘balance’.