Technostress: A Concept Analysis

Citation

Tacy, J. (July, 2016). Technostress: A Concept Analysis. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 20 (2), Available at http://www.himss.org/ojni

Abstract

Technology is ubiquitous and can create feelings of frustration, overload, and stress.  Technology stress, also called technostress, is an emergent psychological disorder experienced by individuals who use technology.  This concept analysis identifies relationships in the contexts of business, education, and nursing.  The defining attributes and empirical referents of technostress are analyzed.  The relevance of technostress and the acceptance of technology are applied to nursing education. 

Technostress: A Concept Analysis

Over the last three decades, various technologies such as television, mobile phones, internet, and computers have changed approaches to health, education, entertainment, culture, and the economy (Hoffman, Novak, & Venkatesh, 2004).  The constant flux of technological change and forced adaptation creates a form of stress called technostress (Weil & Rosen, 1997).  Clark and Kalin (1996) suggested that technostress is a problem of adaptation caused by the inability to manage the use of technology in a healthy positive manner. 

Authors of several studies examined the incidence of technological stress in business, communications, education, and mass media (Agbu & Simeon, 2011; Al-Fudail and Mellar 2008; Beam, Eunseong, & Voakes, 2003; Burke, 2009).  These research studies document the presence and negative impact of technostress.  Technology changes the way people work, and rapid technological advances make ongoing change inevitable (Brand, 2000).  These changes can create stress.  The purpose of this paper is to perform an in-depth analysis of the concept of technostress using a modified Walker and Avant (2011) method of presentation.

Method of Analysis and Search Methods

According to Walker and Avant (2011), concept analysis is a process that examines the attributes and characteristics of a concept that make it unique.  The following will identify the concept of technostress, ending with its application to nursing education.

Literature for this synthesis came from various online databases and Internet searches.  Ebscohost was the primary resource for literature using these databases: Computers and Applied Sciences, Business Source Complete, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Nursing (CINAHL), and Education (ERIC).  Ebscohost search queries were limited to articles within the last ten years.  Search queries for “technostress” limited results to a minimum of one return to a maximum of 19 returns with Business Source.  Alternative search strings of technology and stress were used to provide multiple responses averaging around 200 responses.  A Google Internet search was also used to gather additional information. 

Review of Literature for Use of the Concept: Technostress

Technostress is defined as a stress or psychosomatic illness caused by working with computer technology on a daily basis (Technostress, n.d.).  Clinical psychologist Criag Brod (1984) coined the term technostress in the early 1980s, defining it as a psychological disorder experienced by individuals when they interact with technology.  Technostress is defined as “any negative effect on human attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, and psychology that directly or indirectly results from technology” (Weil & Rosen, 1997, p. 5).  Brod (1984) stated that technostress can manifest in multiple ways such as confusion, fear, technophobia, or physiological symptoms, but the primary symptom is anxiety.  The negative emotional state of technostress can slow response time and interrupt normal working patterns (Brod, 1982).  Technostressed people have negative attitudes and feelings toward technology (Weil & Rosen, 1997).  Variables that affect technostress in users include experience, age, perceived control, and organizational climate (Brod, 1984).  Weil and Rosen (1997) stated that technostress is a problem of adaptation where individuals are unable to cope with adjustments to technology such as physical, social, and cognitive requirements related to technology use.  In the literature, technostress is referred to as computer-anxiety, computer phobia, and stress related to uncomfortable computer usage (Weil & Rosen, 1995). 

Technostress: Applications in Business

Technostress is a term used in the business literature.  A large cross-sectional design study of 1,072 information and communication technology (ICT) users compared two groups based on intensity of ICT use: non-intensive and intensive users (Salanova, Llorens, & Cifre, 2013). The study examined technostress experiences and used the terms technostrain and technoaddiction.  Findings indicated that those who use technology develop the skills necessary to enable them to be less anxious, skeptical, and more efficient.  Non-intensive technology users had significantly more anxiety (F(1,1072) = 15.73, p < .001, skepticism (F(1,1072) = 5.04, p < .05, and inefficiency (F(1,1072) = 26.01, p < .001. The study recommended future research to explore technostress experiences based on sociodemographic and occupational variables.  Studying occupational variables might be particularly relevant to technostress in nursing as faculty retention becomes more important in the current shortage environment.  The impact of stress from technology on job satisfaction is important in the dialogue about faculty retention.

Fuglseth and Sorebo (2014) examined how managers cope with the negative effects of technostress on employee use of information and computer technology.  Utilizing a covariance structural equation modelling analysis through a mPlus test, it was found that “technostress creators have the strongest direct effect (-0.42, p < 0.001) on employee satisfaction with the use of ICT, and further, the strongest mediated effect (-0.37, p < 0.001) on employee intentions to extend the use of ICT” (Fuglseth & Sorebo, 2014, p. 168).  Among the employees examined, technology that was too complex to understand and use significantly impacted dissatisfaction with their use of ICT.  Increasing complexity can undermine employee willingness to use ICT, so managers should implement strategies for coping with technostress.    

A study of 237 institutional sales professionals examined technostress, technology-enabled innovation, technology-enabled performance, and overall performance (Tarafdar, Pullins, & Ragu-Nathan, 2015).  This study identified technostress creators as reasons why individuals experience technostress, such as techno-overload, techno-invasion, techno-insecurity, techno-uncertainty, and technology characteristics such as usefulness, complexity, reliability, and pace of change.  Findings revealed an inverse relationship between technostress creators and decreasing performance with a path coefficient of -0.147 (p < 0.05).  Tarafdar et al., (2015) found that “while traditional effort-based mechanisms, such as building technology competence, reduce the impact of technostress creators on technology-enabled innovation and performance, more empowering mechanisms such as developing technology self-efficacy and information systems (IS) literacy enhancement and involvement in IS initiatives are required to counter the decrease in overall performance because of technostress creators” (p. 103).  This study revealed the phenomenon of technostress in the context of IS use among sales professionals and suggested a need for longitudinal studies to examine technostress over time.    

Technostress: Applications in Education

The literature documents faculty resistance to technology adoption in higher education, yet little focus has been given to technostress found in education (Johnson, Wisniewski, Kuhlemeyer, Issacs, & Krzykowski, 2012).    Maladaption to technology was due to faculty’s inability to use information and communication technologies, thus leading to technostress (Agbu & Simeon, 2011; Johnson et al., 2012)

A qualitative study to explore the issue of stress experienced by teachers while using information computer technology in the classroom focused on data gathered from nine instructors using interviews and galvanic skin response (GSR) readings (Al-Fudail & Mellar, 2008).  Study findings revealed that GSR readings rose during stressful classroom situations.  GSR findings increased in one teacher from -32m to +30m in response to computer access difficulties.  Findings also revealed definitive spikes in GSR response when suffering voting instrument problems during classroom instruction.  Al-Fudail and Mellar (2008) found that teachers do suffer stress associated with technology use in the classroom and a lack of fit between the instructor and environment.  This phenomenon created stress and was related to the instructor’s ability, training, and technology use.  The study’s model teacher-technology environment interaction of classroom technostress facilitated faculty administrators’ identification of environmental factors that reduce technostress and indicated a need to examine faculty coping strategies.  Further research was recommended to see if mentoring to develop coping strategies would effectively reduce teacher stress. 

A study by Agbu and Simeon (2011) randomly selected 52 academic and 49 administrative staff participants from six academic schools (including education, law, science, and technology) and seven non-academic departments at a Nigerian University to assess the effect of technostress on distance education.  The study assessed symptoms and manifestations of technostress among workers in a traditional and distance learning institution.  Academic staff manifested higher levels of technostress than the non-academic staff (t(99) = 1.66, p < .05, r = .17).  Results showed that those aged 60 years and above presented the highest symptoms of technostress (M = 62.33, SD = 4.18), closely followed by those aged 50 to 59 (M = 55.16, SD = 4.39), 40 to 59 (M = 53.22, SD = 4.66), and the lowest mean score 48 (SD = 3.87) for those between the ages of 20 to 29.  The study recommended improved training and stress management interventions as important factors for relieving technostress. 

Technostress: Applications in Nursing

Instructional technology.  Nurse educators from 13 baccalaureate schools of nursing (N = 311) located in Louisiana were studied to determine the incidence of technological stress among nurse faculty.  Analysis of variance (ANOVA) results revealed no significant differences between the demographic and professional variables (age, gender, ethnic origin, educational level, years of experience as a nurse educator, academic rank, previous computer training, use of a computer at home, online teaching, and compensation for incorporation of technology in nursing theory classes) and nurse educator technostress (Burke, 2005; Burke, 2009).  ANOVA results showed a significant difference among nurse educators based on their stress levels on the variable of perceived administrative support for classroom use of technology (F = 14.941 [1, 113], p < .001).  Regression analysis was used to gain understanding about the influence of administrative support on technostress.  The analysis was significant (F = 14.157 [1, 113], p < .001) and administrative support explained 12% of the overall variance in technostress.  The findings indicate that nurse faculty with lower technostress believed they had higher administration support for incorporation of technology in the classroom.  Further research to explore technological stressors was recommended to provide insight into nursing faculty use of technology and their perceived administrative support.

One of the most significant changes to occur in nursing education since the move from hospital training to the university sector is electronic learning (Button, Harrington, & Belan, 2014).  Button et al., (2014) examined primary research that focused on electronic learning issues of students and educators.  A systematic review of 28 studies documented that increased time and skills were required to incorporate electronic learning.  Study authors recommended that educators incorporate information literacy and nursing informatics into pre-licensure nursing curriculum so graduates are prepared to meet current work requirements (Button et al., 2014).  The review confirmed the need to further study technology use among nurse educators.

Technology skills for nurse faculty are a requirement rather than an option (Doutrich, Hoeksel, Wykoff, & Thiele, 2005).  Support for faculty mentors and comprehensive technical assistance are needed to enhance the skills of current and new faculty.  Doutrich et al. (2005) explained that programs must adapt, making traditions like pen and paper testing and sole faculty lectures obsolete.  Doutrich et al. (2005) noted that when technology does not work, both students and faculty experience high levels of stress.  Students stated, “when you’re learning the technology and it doesn’t work, you are afraid you have done something wrong” or feel “stupid” (p. 29).  Providing technological support in ways that are stress relieving and encouraging is critical to support faculty and students when dealing with technology that is new, difficult, or inoperative. 

Skills learning and generational issues.  Evolving technology, like simulation, requires faculty to adapt their teaching techniques.  Faculty must demonstrate competency or risk losing credibility with students (Galloway, 2009).  Today’s student learners have grown up as the millennial generation with access to electronic devices, internet, and social media interaction.  Millennial learners tend to prefer experiential learning methods that include web-based and virtual environments (Parker & Myrick, 2009). 

Occupational stress in changing work environments is a global health concern.  One recent study related the problems experienced in psychiatric nursing (Koivunen, Kontio, Pitkanen, Katajisto, & Valimaki, 2012).  The study authors (n = 146) examined nurse occupational stress with the implementation of information technology on acute psychiatric wards.  The project involved common computer use and the implementation of a new internet -based patient education system.  The majority (56%) of participants reported the process was mentally strenuous.  Nurses with positive attitudes to Internet use reported less stress and more job satisfaction than nurses with neutral attitudes (mean 8.04 vs. mean 9.55, p = .010).  The study provided insight into perceived work environments, stress, and the use of information technology, and noted the introduction of new technological applications commonly cause stress.  Koivunen et al., (2012) recommended tailoring the introduction of new technology with sensitivity to the nurses’ attitudes and stress levels.

McNeil et al. (2005) conducted a study involving 266 baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in the United States.  The study evaluated nurse faculty preparedness to teach nursing informatics and their skills and use of informatics tools.  Approximately one-third of the programs reported faculty are taught computer skills (e-mail, spreadsheets, databases, and software use) and over half of all programs indicated faculty are taught information literacy skills (bibliographic retrieval, internet and library services).  A combined 86% (n = 229) of faculty identified themselves as “novice” or “beginner” level for nursing informatics competency.  The findings indicate a gap in the knowledge needed by faculty to prepare nurses to be skilled in information technology and its use to manage clinical information.  So faculty must focus on learning and improving their technology skills, using more technology in teaching, and helping students learn. These demands can lead to faculty performance issues, pressure, and stress that can negatively affect students. Thus understanding technostress is important.

Concept of Technostress

The data search derived four critical attributes for technostress: computer related stress; fear, confusion, and mistrust of technology; technological phobia or anxiety causing work disruptions; and technology overload and invasion (Technostress, n.d.; Brod, 1984; Brod, 1982; Weil & Rosen, 1995; Weil & Rosen, 1997; Tarafdar et al., 2015).

Computer Related Stress

Computer related stress represents a negative emotional state when an individual uses a computer (La Paglia, Caci, & La Barbera, 2008) and can be a situational or continual state of anxiety directly related to computer use.  The anxiety is characterized by symptoms of excessive caution around computers, avoidance, negative feedback regarding computers, and attempts to limit computer usage (Mahar, Henderson, & Deane, 1997). 

Fear, Confusion, and Mistrust of Technology

Fear, confusion, and mistrust of technology represents a general aversion and apprehension of technology.  This negative emotional state can lead to psychological and physiological maladies (Haftor & Mirijamdotte, 2010).  Technology can disrupt stable life routines, and rapid technological changes can increase the confusion, fear, and mistrust of technology.

Technological Phobia or Anxiety Leading to Disruptions of Normal Work Patterns

Technological phobia or anxiety can lead to disruptions of normal work patterns.  Some individuals resist using technology because their faith or culture generates a negative taboo toward technology. Technophobia in the general sense can be due to anxiety or fear of the unknown and the science behind what it is at the core of innovation (Weil & Rosen, 1997).  Sometimes this fear is created by popular culture via movies, books, and TV shows.  The phobia can be disruptive in a society full of advancements in technology and the constant fast-paced shift to a fully online, connected world. 

Technology Overload and Invasion

Technology overload is workload, faster work speed, or change in work-flow related to technology.  Invasion involves aspects of technology that invade personal space, life, and time spent with family because of the time spent learning new technology (Tu, Wang, & Shu, 2005).

Antecedents and Consequences

Walker and Avant (2011) define antecedents as the events or attributes that must arise prior to a concept’s occurrence.  The following are antecedents, or necessary conditions, for the concept of technostress (Technostress, n.d.; Brod, 1982; Brod, 1984; Weil & Rosen, 1997; Weil & Rosen, 1995):

  • Exposure to some type of technology.
  • Anticipation of a negative effect due to technological use.

Consequences are those events or incidents that can occur as a result of the occurrence of a concept and that can often stimulate new ideas or avenues for research pertaining to certain concepts (Walker & Avant, 2011). The following are consequences, or what occurs as a result of the concept of technostress (Technostress, n.d.; Brod, 1982; Brod, 1984; Weil & Rosen, 1997; Weil & Rosen, 1995):

  • A chronic or lingering episode of technological anxiety and helplessness
  • Panic, humiliation, mental and physical fatigue
  • Resistance

Application of Exemplars in Nursing Education

Cases as described by Walker and Avant (2011) are examples of the use of the concept that incorporates all of the critical attributes of the concept.  The following are example vignettes of a model and contrary case:

Model Case

Students in a transcultural course were learning about various cultures in the population.  The nursing instructor created an instruction plan involving PowerPoint, lecture, and Youtube video examples for the first hour of class.  Then for the last hour, a question and answer session via Skype was planned with a Hmong patient who would share a recent hospital experience.  At the beginning of class, things went well with the PowerPoint instruction.  However, trouble began with the next activity involving a YouTube video when the link would not work.  After an embarrassing 10 minutes, the instructor was able to show the YouTube video.  When it was time for the activity with the Hmong patient, the instructor was unable to get Skype to work properly.  After 15 minutes of trial and error, a student offered help and got Skype working in under 2 minutes.  Frustrated, stressed, and humiliated, the instructor proceeded without further difficulties.  After class, the instructor was very upset about the 25 minutes of wasted class time due to technical errors and vowed never to use Skype or YouTube again in class. 

In this case, the instructor exhibited computer-related stress coupled with fear and confusion due to the problems that arose.  She then exhibited mistrust and fear of the varied technology programs due to the problems and stress encountered.  She anticipated future problems demonstrating mistrust and vowed to limit the use of technology in her courses because of this experience. 

Contrary Case

Students in a transcultural course were learning about various cultures in the population.  The nursing instructor had an instruction plan using PowerPoint, lecture, and Youtube video examples for the first hour of class.  Then for the last hour, a question and answer session via Skype was planned with a Hmong patient who would share a recent hospital experience.  The class started with PowerPoint instruction and lecture, followed by a YouTube video.  The video started immediately and when done the class discussed it for 15 minutes.  Next, the Skype session started without error.  The Hmong patient shared her hospital experience and then answered questions for 20 minutes.  After the lesson, the instructor asked for feedback, and students shared positive comments about the teaching methods and their engagement.  Even after the class, many students talked about how great it was to other instructors and fellow classmates.  The department head heard about the great class and congratulated the instructor.  The instructor had such a great experience she sought workshops and other techniques to make her classroom more interactive and technology driven. 

In this case, the instructor did not run into any technical problems that led to mistrust or embarrassment as in the model case for the concept technostress. Lack of stress led to a positive outlook toward technology.

Empirical Referents

Instruments involved in assessing technology acceptance, perceptions, and use have provided insight into the aspects of technology use.  Over the last two decades, a significant body of research has used the Davis’ (1989) Technology Acceptance Model and examined factors explaining usage intentions and acceptance.  The model measures how well consumers accept technology and can be used to measure different aspects of technology use. 

Hudiburg (1995) developed the Computer Technology Hassles Scale to measure computer-related stress.  The scale composed of 69 “hassles” to be rated on the degree of severity using a Likert scale, ranging from not at all to extremely severe.  The Computer Hassles Scale yields a severity of hassles score for the total scale and two subscales, Computer Runtime Errors and Computer Information Problems.  This scale is one of the first developed to evaluate the phenomenon of technostress.  Burke (2009) devised the Nurse Educator Technostress Scale (NETS) based on the Hudiburg (1995) Hassles Scale.  The NETS was reviewed for content validity by an expert panel and pilot tested (Burke, 2009).  Other instruments based on the Computer Hassles Scale include a Somatic Complaints Scale developed by Richard Hudiburg (1995).  Additional research studies in nursing education would enhance understanding of technostress.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Technostress manifests in many ways and can include computer anxiety, technophobia, and computer phobia.  As technology grows in availability and complexity, so does the pressure to integrate and adapt, creating stress (McKenzie & And, 1997).  Creating awareness of the concept of technostress is important to understand its impact on faculty.  Lack of research specific to nursing technostress makes it an important area for research.  Rapid changes in technology, growing expectations for faculty to use technology, and technological glitches can cause technostress in both faculty and students.  Creating awareness of technostress and advancing science via research in this area are important steps in the smooth and stress-free integration of technology into the nursing academic arena.

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Author Bio:
Joseph W. Tacy PhD, RN
Assistant Professor, CNL/NA Program Coordinator
James Madison University School of Nursing, Burruss Hall
Harrisonburg, VA  22807
(540) 255-2460
tacyjx@jmu.edu

Joseph is currently an Assistant professor at James Madison University, education and research interests below:

Education:

  • PhD - The University of Texas at Tyler (2011 - 2015)
  • M.S.N. Nursing Education - James Madison University (2009 - 2011)
  • A.S.N Nursing - Davis & Elkins College (2005 - 2007)
  • B.A Regents - West Virginia University (1999 - 2004)

Professional Interests:

  • Nurse Technology
  • Technostress in Nursing Faculty
  • Nursing Education