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The influence of digitalization and new technologies on psychosocial work environment and employee health

Leader(s):

Jolien Vleeshouwers

Institute:

STAMI

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As part of a larger project initiated by the Nordic Council of Ministers set to establish the future of work in the Nordic countries, we conducted a literature review investigating the effects of digitalization and new technologies on the psychosocial work environment and employee health and well-being.

The original screening for relevant articles resulted in 6238 publications retrieved, 43 of which were included in the final summary. Ten additional publications were identified by searching reference lists, making a total 53 studies to be included in the current review.

The introduction of new technologies at work has long been recognized as a source of worry, uncertainty, and new work environment risks. Existing skills may become redundant, and having to acquire new skills or having to adapt existing ones can present immense challenges for workers.

Outcome factors were divided into two general categories; 1) health and well-being outcomes, which included among others pain, burnout, general health, and sleep problems, and 2) work factor outcomes, which included among others job satisfaction, work – private life balance, and perceived job control.

The included studies identified an emphasis on some topics and aspects of the current research out there, namely, 1) Introduction to new technologies, 2) “ICT demands”, 3) Technostress, 4) ”Workplace telepressure”, availability demands, and work-private life interference, 5) Attitudes towards technology, and 6) Interpersonal stressors. The individual topics and findings from studies exploring these topics will be discussed in detail.

As a brief conclusion, however, we can see that in many instances, it seems that new work technologies are accompanied by problems balancing work with private life, lack of restitution due to extended availability requirements or -norms, quantitative as well as qualitative work overload, and a range of other potential challenges to employee well-being.

However, there were also a number of studies that reported no significant adverse health effects, or that contributed to a more nuanced view by specifying conditions under which potentially adverse health effects of new technologies could be avoided. And while the theoretical interests of most studies seemed to pertain mainly to potential adverse effects, some studies identified ways in which new technologies could benefit employees, for instance by providing freedom (or control) and flexibility, or by altering job tasks in ways that increased job motivation, satisfaction, and performance.

Contribution to PEROSH Research Conference 2019.

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PEROSH comprises 13 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) institutes

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