Digital tools are taking up more and more space at work and are a facilitator. But they also carry the risk of “digital stress”, a recent study indicating that 31% of employees are exposed to a hyper-connection.
“Emails, telemeeting tools, internal messaging, Internet access […]. All these tools have changed our lives”recalled this week William Dab, epidemiologist and former Director General of Health during a conference entitled Digital stress, an emerging risk. “Could it be that these tools, or more exactly the uses of these tools, are turning against us?”he wondered during this intervention as part of the Préventica exhibition dedicated to health and safety at work.
“What I find complicated since relatively recently, post-Covid and confinements, is the multiplication of channels, which means that we no longer know where it comes from”testifies to AFP Adrien Debré, lawyer in a business firm. “It makes flow management difficult. It’s like Russian dolls that need to be opened”.
We will talk about digital stress when the amount of available information that we have to process exceeds our capacity.
With telework and organizations “more and more physically broken”, “we are all day behind our screens”, also reports Jérôme, an executive in the banking sector, who did not wish to give his last name. Even in the office, video meetings are linked “at a breakneck pace”.
For the William Dab, “we are going to talk about digital stress when the amount of available information that we have to process exceeds our capacity”. A subject that is “going up” under different names: “infobesity”, “digital hardship” or “technostress”.
In the eyes of the epidemiologist, “the central phenomenon is that of overconnection”which can lead to “a mental overload”. He points “a vicious circle with a kind of continuous pressure that makes us zap from one source of information to another”and the feeling at a time of “to lose control”. A stressful situation “whose extreme form is burn-out”.
“As a doctor, I analyze this as a new form of addiction” the consequences of which we still know little about, even if those of stress are “very well known”explained William Dab. “Not just mental”these are associated with a “increased cardiovascular risks, metabolic risks”as well as effects “immune”.
Stress further reduces performance, and digital tools, “if they opened the door to remote work, they also put us in a situation of isolation”. “In short, these tools that are so helpful to us can also affect health and the quality of life at work”he said.
To illustrate the *”some data”* on the subject, William Dab cites a study published mid-May. Led by the Observatory of infobesity and digital collaboration, it was carried out in particular via the analysis of emails from nearly 9,000 people continuously for two years.
Without claiming to have statistical value given the small sample of companies (10), the study shows that 31% of employees, who have to send emails after 8 p.m. more than 50 evenings per year (117 evenings for managers), are exposed to hyper-connection.
In addition, more than 50% of emails are answered in less than an hour and these messages generate “a lot of digital noise”in 25% of cases due to “reply to all”. The study also measured the slots of “full focus” (one hour without sending emails). For leaders, their weekly share is only 11% (24% for managers and 42% for employees).
For the epidemiologist, this means “a loss of meaning, efficiency and depth of analysis. We may be reaching a threshold of toxicity”. More “we can act”assures the epidemiologist, restricting the information to “what is really essential”keeping “beaches where the screen is closed” or through physical or relaxing activities.
It’s about, in fineof “Do not allow yourself to be possessed as one lets oneself be possessed by hard drugs”.
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