digital communication

Employees face something called digital anxiety—a phenomenon caused by either too much or too little digital communication.

Our workplace is facing a crisis. And it’s no thanks to the plethora of digital communication platforms available to us. (Think Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Telegram—you name it.)

According to a 2021 survey, conducted in the US by Erica Dhawan, author of Digital Body Language, and Quester, a strategy and insights agency, some 2,000 employees faced digital anxiety—a phenomenon caused by either too much or too little digital communication.

Just under half (48%) of management-level employees had digital anxiety, of which approximately 38% were listed as executives. In the American context, that’s US$188 billion worth of manhours wasted.

The digital communication survey showed that Gen Z (born between 1997 to 2003) managers faced the most (59%) digital anxiety; with Millennials (1981 to 1996) and Gen X (1965 to 1980) managers at 52% and 43% respectively.

Looking at executives, Millennials are behind Gen Z managers by 8%. That’s similar to their managerial peers, and more than Gen X managers.

The biggest reason why employees have digital anxiety is because, according to Dhawan and Quester’s survey, despite all the digital platforms available at their fingertips, there is still a lack of communication (75%) between them. Other reasons include unclear (68%) and vague communication (65%).

Poor communication has thereby led to weak collaboration as well as trust between the management and executives, with the latter reportedly feeling undervalued.

Beyond communication, the survey also highlighted how digital anxiety could also be triggered by the barrage of notifications (31%) coming from computers or mobiles—having employees feel stressed (45%) and overwhelmed (25%).

A respondent shared: “The constant need to respond, whether it is your time off or while you are at work. I am on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

There is, however, a way to reduce digital anxiety.

According to Harvard Business Review, both the management and the executives should, depending on the circumstances, stick to one platform of communication, rather than using a variety of platforms to bombard each other with constant notifications. This should be done in tandem with using a consistent platform, given the urgency of the notification.

For instance, leaders and employees are recommended to use traditional work messaging platforms (like Microsoft Teams or Skype) for urgent situations, where the response time of either party is expected to be ASAP. Emails could be more for information, tracking or recording purposes; therefore, a longer response time should be allowed.

Video calls could ideally be used for meetings. If a text via informal messaging apps (such as WhatsApp or Telegram) is necessary, either party could ideally use it when the other is uncontactable, or when it’s after office hours.

Image / 123RF

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