'Techno-Unreliability' Linked to Higher Risk of Burnout

Employees who experience frequent "techno-unreliability"—defined as technology-induced interruptions—are more likely to report symptoms of burnout at work, reports a study in the March Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

"[T]he more often techno-induced interruptions occur, the more burnout symptoms/the higher the burnout score," according to the new report by Dr. Sophie-Charlotte Meyer and Prof. Dr. Anita Tisch of the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Dortmund. The researchers analyzed responses to a nationally representative survey of German employees.

Participant reports of techno-induced work interruptions were examined for association with ratings of burnout symptoms. The study included 4,702 employees who predominantly worked with information and communication technologies (ICT) and 1,953 who worked mainly with tools, equipment, or machinery.

The data suggested a clear relationship between techno-unreliability and burnout. Among ICT users, those who said they were "always affected" by techno-induced interruptions had an average burnout score of 4.4 (on a 0-to-8 scale), compared to 2.7 in those reporting little or no techno-unreliability.

Technology-related interruptions also affected burnout symptoms in tool users, although the difference was less pronounced. Compared to ICT users, tool users generally reported more burnout symptoms, suggesting that they have poorer mental health, on average.

In both groups, the association between techno-unreliability and burnout remained significant after controlling for demographic and occupational factors. Further analyses suggested that job autonomy might buffer the effects of techno-induced interruptions and burnout for tool users. For employees who mainly use ICT, social support from immediate supervisors may be a mitigating factor.

While emphasizing that their study cannot demonstrate a causal relationship  between techno-unreliability and burnout, Drs. Meyer and Tisch conclude: "[O]rganizations can foster a healthier and more productive work environment by providing reliable technology and technical assistance, along with promoting social support and job autonomy in the workplace."


Meyer, Sophie-Charlotte PhD; Tisch, Anita PhD. Exploring the Relationship Between Techno-Unreliability at Work and Burnout. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 66(3):p 185-191, March 2024. | DOI: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000003008