Campus WU

What are the challenges and stressors of teleworking during the pandemic?

01/06/2021

Ruth Simsa, professor at the Institute for Sociology and Social Research

Technostress and digital discipline

Digital literacy, i.e. the willingness to use a range of different communication technologies and the skills needed to use them well are key. One of the main challenges of teleworking is technostress, i.e. feeling overwhelmed by new technologies. Technostress can occur because the situation requires greater use of communication technologies and less direct personal support. Maintaining digital discipline can also be a challenge: Information overload and digital distractions can become very stressful. People find it harder and harder to focus on the task at hand without checking their electronic devices for new messages or succumbing to cyberloafing, i.e. using the internet for private purposes during working hours – the temptation to do that is greater when working from home.

Good self-management skills needed

Teleworking requires a well-structured daily routine. This includes disciplined working hours as well as breaks and a clearly defined end of the workday. Depending on their individual situation, people may have to deal with more distractions when working from home than when working in the office. Teleworking means that there is less control and discipline exerted by others, and people need to set their priorities independently. This means that employees need the skills required for structuring their day and following routines.

Different personality types

The five-factor personality model distinguishes five primary traits: emotional stability, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. A sufficient degree of emotional stability is a key trait for teleworking. Emotionally stable people generally need less attention from their supervisors if they have adequate working conditions, clear goals, and the necessary skills for reaching these goals. Extroverted people are generally less happy when they have to work from home because they like the traditional work environment with more opportunities for personal contact. When it comes to highly conscientious employees, supervisors must make sure to curb these employees’ self-exploitation tendencies, which can easily get out of hand, especially when working from home.

To find out more, see the recently published book: Simsa, R. & Patak, M.: Leadership & Homeoffice. So gelingt Führung auf Distanz, Wien 2021

Ruth Simsa, professor at the Institute for Sociology and Social Research

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