The Dark Side of Information Technology

  • Monideepa Tarafdar, John D’Arcy, Ofir Turel and Ashish Gupta
  • December 16, 2014

In recent years, digital technologies have been transforming workplaces and increasing economic productivity. But could overuse of information technology now be sapping your employees’ — and your organization’s — well-being?

Information technology has long been viewed as the power behind a new economic revolution — an evolving set of tools that has made workers much more productive than ever before, powering a step change as dramatic as steam or electricity. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, “digitization boosted world economic output by nearly US$200 billion and created 6 million jobs in 2011.”1 On a company-by-company basis, a number of studies have found that companies that use more IT have higher productivity than their competitors.2 However, we may be entering an era in which human frailties begin to slow down progress from digital technologies. In a series of studies, we explored the implications of IT-induced technology stress, technology addiction and IT misuse in the workplace. (See “About the Research.”) One implication of our findings is that the very qualities that make IT useful — reliability, portability, user-friendliness and fast processing — may also be undermining employee productivity, innovation and well-being.

After observing a number of organizations, we found that this rapidly emerging “dark side” of IT hurts employees and their organizations and robs companies of some of the productivity gains they expect from their IT investments. In this article, we describe key negative effects of IT use in the workplace, explain the risks they pose, and suggest ways managers can mitigate their impact.

The Effects of “Technostress”

Pervasive and near-continual use of organizational IT systems is now beginning to take a toll on some employees’ health.