Health @ Work

Who is the most stressed out at work?

Take a look around your office and you may be able to spot which employee is the most stressed, simply by looking at the type of computers your office mates are using. It turns out that the smaller their technology devices, the more stressed they probably are, according to a survey of 1,000 workers, commissioned by Toshiba of Canada.

About 86 percent of employees who used iPads and other tablets said they experienced workplace stress, compared to 68 percent of laptop users and only 57 percent of desktop users. Tablet users were also three times more likely to yell at their colleagues when stressed at work. That’s likely because tablets travel easily, too easily. 

Tablet users can easily take their work home with them, out to dinner, or to their kid’s soccer practice, never actually “leaving” work behind.  That’s doable with a laptop, but less so, because of its relative bulkiness.

But tablets and other wireless devices are now a fact of corporate life.  A study by Cisco, a networking equipment company, found that 78 percent of white-collar employees use a mobile device for work purposes and nearly as many connect wirelessly at work. Employees spent an average of $600 of their own money for devices they will use at work. The trend, dubbed BYOD for bring your own device to work, is widely encouraged by companies.

The Cisco study found that 95 percent of IT and business leaders surveyed are allowing employees to use their own mobile devices on their employer’s networks, despite security concerns.  Cisco also reported that the average number of devices per white collar worker is 2.8 today and is expected to reach 3.3 by 2014. I’m already at four devices, surrounded at my desk by my desktop, laptop, a tablet and a smart phone.

Business owners are hoping to reap the productivity benefits of having you stay connected even when you leave work, but what does that do to you?  Numerous studies have found that people who don’t turn off their electronics—their email and their smart phones—when they leave work have more difficulty balancing work and family and are generally more stressed.

But there may be a plus side to BYOD. Employees say that using their own devices gives them more control of their work experience. They enjoy working on a device that they like, and they can also do personal activities on their own device while at work. Therein lies the irony. Mobile devices help you stay connected to friends and families while at work, but they also keep you connected to work during your family time.  

Another sign that we’re too reliant on technology: The Toshiba survey found that 40 percent of workers said that malfunctioning technology was their biggest stressor.  More than half said that dealing with malfunctioning office technology takes away from other work responsibilities and one quarter of those surveyed said they have missed a deadline due to a computer that froze, a printer that didn’t work or some other technological failure.

Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist whose work appears in the New York Times, among other national magazines and websites. She has authored several health books, including "Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility." Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.