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Strategies for the digital balance: Interview on the study

Strategies for the digital balance

What does the use of digital technologies and media do to the individual? The recently published study “Healthy digital work ?!” examined it


For the PräDiTec project (prevention for safe and healthy work with digital technologies), more than 5,000 employees were asked about the triggers and consequences of digital stress. In an interview, Prof. Henner Gimpel, head of the study, and Dr. Michael Drees, specialist in occupational medicine, on the content and results of the study.

Prof. Gimpel, what exactly is digital stress?

BULLFINCH: Digital stress is excessive demands that occur when the demands placed on us exceed our ability to deal with them. It is stress that is triggered by digital technologies and media and our dealings with them. For example, when digital technologies and media do not work reliably. The program crashes and the documents that have just been worked out cannot be restored. Another example is hidden behind the feeling: “What have I actually been doing all day?” In the context of the study, we call it “a lack of sense of achievement”. One of the reasons for this is that despite a large number of e-mails sent and documents being processed, the mailbox is full again at the end of the day as it was at the beginning.

DREES: The study shows: Employees feel that employers can control their work more precisely using digital technologies. That apparently triggers digital stress. The role of the employee has become unclear as a result of digitization. His job is to do a specific job for which he uses digital tools, but which do not always work. So he is busy adjusting these instruments properly.


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So is digitization a curse or a blessing?

BULLFINCH: Technology is fantastic and it makes our lives easier. We don't want to stop digitization, we want to promote it. But we should also look at their downsides. That is exactly what we are doing in the study on digital stress. However, we are far from “demonizing” digital technologies and media as such.

DREES: The solution is not to switch off devices and just run "Digital Detox". It's about being smart with digital technologies. This applies to the technological, organizational and personal level.

BULLFINCH: Awareness-raising is particularly necessary among employers and managers who should create “healthy” framework conditions for their employees. People who are exposed to severe digital stress consider themselves sicker, less productive, more dissatisfied with their job and want to change jobs more often.

Dr. Drees, does that confirm your experience as a company doctor in practice?

DREES: Absolutely. It's exciting when we look at the results of our studies
Seeing observations reflected. As specialists in corporate health management, we recognize that digital stress is a very big issue in companies.

BULLFINCH: Employees also have their share of using digital technologies responsibly. You have to be ready to embrace the changes and seek constructive dialogue. Many are already doing this. The intensity also has an impact: the more digital media and technologies are used, the greater the routine and competence. This in turn avoids digital stress. In addition, it is important to educate yourself and seek support.

So there is something we can do about dealing with digital stress?

DREES: Absolutely. You can tackle the development of skills and work on the management and corporate culture. But the relief of digitization is not immediately noticeable. The subject of stress due to digitization is relatively new, but in principle what can be observed with every change in the working world applies: The employees must be accompanied and supported by the company.

What are the next steps in the project?

BULLFINCH: In the second part of the project we deal with practice. We need effective measures and instruments with which companies can work in the future. These should either ensure that digital stress does not arise in the first place or help to reduce it.

DREES: What we want is sustainable, preventive and health-promoting work design. The aim of the project is for ias to be able to offer concrete added value for employees.

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