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Research on digital stress and the importance of leadership in hybrid workplaces

Research on digital stress and the importance of leadership in hybrid workplaces

– During the pandemic, we have seen a rapid increase in working from home using digital technology. Since then, there has been a lot of research into specific technology and how to work with it, says Karen Hojberg, a lecturer in informatics with a focus on work-integrated learning, at Western University.

– Since we live in a society where many work from home and interact with each other digitally, there is a need to study the contexts in which we use technology and how it affects us. We are interested in how the hybrid way of working generates stress in the form of digital stress.

Karen Hojberg has previously conducted research on leadership in hybrid organizations and how social media is used in the workplace. When her studies showed that interactions with colleagues on social media spilled over into employees' private lives, she became interested in technology-related stress. She will now investigate how to organize hybrid workplaces in a sustainable way.

– We know that the boundaries between work and leisure become more fluid when we work remotely digitally instead of going to a physical workplace. For example, we can respond to emails while sitting on the bus or in the dentist's waiting room. At the same time, we work in many digital channels, such as Zoom, Teams, over the phone and perhaps in different chats, says Karin Hojberg.

– It is precisely this difficulty in disconnecting from work that causes stress. In the past, for example, I studied how to use social media at work. In this project, we have a broader focus and will, among other things, investigate the number of digital channels used during the day. There is a knowledge gap.

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Organizing the workplace physically and digitally

In the project, interviews and workshops will be conducted with employees and managers in two large companies that have chosen to introduce hybrid working.

– In this study, we also have a leadership perspective. Research shows that there is a need for knowledge about how to organize the workplace physically and digitally in a way that makes people feel good, says Karin Hojberg.

-We need to understand how technology is used and when during the day and in what situations it works. Strategies and guidelines for how to work with digital technology may be needed. So we can create the conditions for a thriving workplace where you work not because you can, but when you have to.

What do you hope from the project?
– I hope we gain more knowledge about how to work in and lead a hybrid organization. We must see what frameworks and guidelines are needed for a hybrid workplace to be sustainable. We need to delve deeper into how work is affected by technology that enables so much interaction and 24-hour presence.

Research of practical use

– In the long term, we want to contribute to promoting a good working environment with fewer occupational injuries and reduced ill health. We do this, among other things, by supporting research that is useful in the workplace,” says Ulrika Hector, Head of R&D at Afa Försäkring.

One of the main criteria when we decide which projects receive support is precisely that the research must be of practical benefit. We have now supported Karin Hojberg and an important new project from a prevention perspective.

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The Digital Lobbying in Hybrid Organizations – Leading and Organizing for a Sustainable Workplace project runs until June 2027.

more information

Karin Hogberg, Professor of Informatics, University of the West, 072-318 65 54, [email protected].
Barbro Jacobsson, Research Director, R&D Department, Afa Försäkring: 070–893 95 48, [email protected].
Adam Fredholm, writer, Afa Forsakring: 070–376 41 87, [email protected].

About Afa Insurance research support:
Afa Försäkring annually invests SEK 150 million in research and development with the aim of preventing ill health and occupational injuries within private companies, municipalities and regions.
More information about research support is available on the Afa Försäkring R&D website.