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How Technology & Mental Health is Changing in the Workplace

A close friend of mine, (for now we will call her Mary) once came to me and told me she was struggling with her job due to some serious changes. Her entire work system had recently moved online due to Covid-19, and whilst this was an action taken to prevent the spread of the virus, she found herself being dragged back and down. Mary felt like she was stuck behind a screen all day, she told me her mental health was struggling, she wasn’t coping being stuck with a computer monitor – ultimately it was severely affecting her mental health.

We see technology evolving and upgrading every day. Not looking specifically at just Covid-19 and workplace then, but technology in general in the workplace. And more specifically the way it is impacting upon individual’s mental health. If we looked 50 years ago, computers alone were a faraway dream, as well as mobile phones that open us to 24/7 contact from anyone. 

Mental health is something that is very prominent in modern-day society. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 5 Australians aged 16 – 85 experience mental illness. The most common being depression, anxiety and substance use disorder (ABS 2009). With such a large percentage of our population struggling with mental health in their everyday lives, this no doubt then impacts a large majority of their life. 

So when looking at technology in the workplace in regards to mental health, the majority can assume there are many negative impacts that it has, from the constant contact, the constant screen usage and even just the way we can interact with each other online. But overall, we can also conclude that technology does not just impact mental health at work in a negative aspect but also can have a positive influence on one’s mental health. The use of technology could reduce the workload or pressure on individuals, what used to be a case of tedious form filling, can actually now be 5 seconds of relief by just looking at automatically organised online files. 

Anya Johnson and a few other researchers explored a topic very similar to this in their journal called “A review and agenda for examining how technology-driven changes at work will impact workplace mental health and employee well-being”. (Johnson, A. et all., 2020). Johnson explores both the positive and negative impact of technology on mental health in the workplace. The first, on how we work – where they focus on the changes that have been caused by technology, and then they also explore when we work with the improvement in communication technology, later than examining the possible implications for the future of technology in the workplace. In their study, one of the branches that they explore is that technology is developed with “little consideration on the impact on employees”. (Johnson, A. et all., 2020)

Another similar article released by SR Barley claims that the “increasing volume of email and other technological communications are a growing source of stress in people’s lives” (Barley et al., 2011), they believe that the increased ability to contract workers at any time of the day adds extra stress and keeps the individual in a constant state of ‘work mode’ feeling that they are constantly required to respond to emails etc as soon as possible even if they are not at work. They believe that the increased use of technology in the workplace impacts negatively on the employee’s stress, they become overloaded, exhausted, and burnt out. 

But whilst there are many negatives on technology and mental health in the workplace, there are also positives that are just as important. As briefly mentioned earlier, the introduction of technology in the workplace and the upgrades over time creates automation at work. Where this automation instantly takes on the taxing work, the administrative tasks and even repetitive tasks. This can mean that the employees may struggle less with things such as exhaustion or stress at work, allowing individuals to spend more time on critical tasks that require their attention – this overall can improve their mental health to have them being proactive in the workplace. 

CSIRO’s researchers actually found that the automation of technology in the workplace has actually improved safety and reduced the risk of physical workplace injuries. This lack of injury obviously improves the employee’s mental health from any psychological problems or even any trauma that may be caused by the injury (Horton et al., 2018)

A notable point is also that technology can promote good mental health practices, such as when managers can receive mental health training for their employees and the use of technology. A raised awareness of the impact that this change can have on the individual can help heavily raise awareness and assist with prevention. 

In conclusion, technology is certainly impacting upon one’s mental health in the workplace as it changes every day. But this does not necessarily mean it is a bag thing! Whilst it can negatively impact mental health by increasing demands and even changing resources, it can also have a positive impact, by relieving workloads, introducing awareness and prevention, and even ease of access for all. Technology is changing in our everyday work lives but it does not need to be something we are afraid of, just something that we all need to be aware of. 


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2009). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 4326.0, 2007. ABS: Canberra

Barley, SR, Meyerson, DE, Grodal, S (2011) Email as a source and symbol of stress. Organization Science 22: 887–906.

Horton, J, Cameron, A, Devaraj, D, et al. (2018) Workplace Safety Futures: The Impact of Emerging Technologies and Platforms on Work Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation Over the Next 20 Years. Canberra, ACT, Australia: CSIRO.

Johnson, A. et al. (2020) ‘A review and agenda for examining how technology-driven changes at work will impact workplace mental health and employee well-being’, Australian Journal of Management, 45(3), pp. 402–424.


Published by Alex Cooper

UOW Communication and Media Student - Majoring in Digital and Social Media - Minoring in Graphic Design

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