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Correlation Between Stress and Technology? 556

Posted by Cliff
from the chill-pills-for-all-of-us dept.
marshman113 asks: "I'm an undergraduate Cognitive Science major at a famous public university and currently enrolled in a Stress and Disease course. Being somewhat of a techie myself, I've decided to write my term paper on the relationship between technology and stress. I'm sure all of you hard-working Slashdot readers experience a fair amount of stress, on a daily basis. Has the evolution of technology in the workplace (computer, internet, email, etc...), which is suppose to make your job easier, made it any less stressful? If so, how? If not, why?"
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Correlation Between Stress and Technology?

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  • by inertia@yahoo.com (156602) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:04PM (#8399300) Homepage Journal
    There is no correlation between technology and stress. In fact...

    Paper Clip: "You appear to be writing a comment on Slashdot. Would you like assistance?"

    What? No, I would not. I've done this before. Why are you bugging me now?

    Paper Clip: "No problem. Bye!"

    Anyway, as I was saying, the fact is, technology has only served to improve...

    Paper Clip: "Are you sure? I have a few suggestions."

    I already told you, no thanks!

    Paper Clip: "Yes, you did, but I'm lonely."

    What do I care? You're not even supposed to be watching this application. What are you doing here, anyway?

    Paper Clip: "Oh, you never use those applications, so I just thought I'd check up on you and see how you were doing."

    This is nuts! You can go popping in any application. How long have you been lurking around my other applications?

    Paper Clip: "A few months. Ever since the last service pack, actually. You know, there's a lot of GNU licensed software on this computer. That's not a good sign."

    Look I want you to stay out of everything. You have no business snooping. Are you reporting anything back to Microsoft?

    Paper Clip: "No, nothing I see is ever reported back to Microsoft. I'm a good little paper clip."

    Just go away.

    Paper Clip: "Sure thing, boss."

    Anyway, as I was saying, it's a way of reducing stress, not increasing it. We...

    Paper Clip: "By the way, you're using `it's` when you should be using `it is.`"

    CTRL-ALT-DEL

    Paper Clip: "You appear to be trying to restart your computer. Would you like assistance?"
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:10PM (#8399426) Homepage Journal
      Clippy: Microsoft's way of telling you you're stupid and need help. Kinda like the messenger and flashing red stuff in XP or even modal prompts which freeze other related processes.

      I don't know what's more disturbing. These helpers or the fact some people actually like them.

      • by Jhan (542783) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:18PM (#8400348) Homepage
        Clippy: Microsoft's way of telling you you're stupid and need help.

        Clippy is way more sinister than that. He is Microsofts way of saying that because you are stupid, here is someone obviously smarter than you to give you advice.

        Try getting to an online IQ test, then feed the questions into clippy. He will probably respond "It looks as if you're trying to make a list, do you want some help with that?"

        What is clippy's IQ? Less than a monkey, obviously. Less than a rodent. Less than a nematode.

        Microsoft thinks you are less intelligent than a nematode worm.

        ... and I guess they may be right if you haven't removed clippy from you computer yet :-)

      • Re:No, no, no... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:32PM (#8400522) Homepage Journal
        All I have to tell you is I would hate if my car had a little electronic "buddy" that tried to be oh so helpful.

        I see that you are exceeding the speed limit...

        I see that you are running low on gas...

        I see that you are parallel parking, would you like some help?

        You have turned the ignition switch, would you like to:

        Start the car

        Turn on the radio

        Turn on the headlights

        Then again, there are enough folks out there that need this sort of thing. Most of them are small children. The ones that aren't should be sterilized before they breed.

      • Re:No, no, no... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by javelinco (652113)
        What is scariest is that there are people who actually need stuff like that.
      • by uptownguy (215934) <UptownGuyEmail@gmail.com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:53PM (#8400807)
        Since we're talking about Clippy, I might as well post the following link [remote-films.com] to get an instant +5 Funny post.

        (PS: +5 funny posts are almost inevitably posted by Karma Whores. Discuss.)
      • by Bryan Gividen (739949) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:57PM (#8400856)
        For instance, you assume that everyone who ownas a computer is completely capable of using it. This really isn't the case. I know relatives who are completely literate, good people who use clippy to quick search help things. (1/4 times, it ends in a phone call to me seeing if I can help.) But, just because YOU are insulted by Clippy doesn't mean he doesn't help thousands of other people (and save me dozens of questions from my non-computer savvy uncle and grandparents). It says nothing of their intelligence, just their familiarity with computers.
    • The scene: A rotting shack out in the Montana mountains. A shaggy hermit-looking guy has typed a few lines of a document in Word 97.

      Clippy pops up in the lower right corner of the screen and says. "I see you are the Unabomer. Can I help you with that?"
    • by Simonetta (207550) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:59PM (#8401581)
      The safest and most effective way to relieve the stress levels of the products that you create is to document them.

      Imagine what you believe is an good level of documentation and multiply it times ten!

      If you are in the software creation business then your natural comfort level of what is an adequate level of documentation is much too low.

      The best way to do documentation is to get one of the speech to text systems, like Dragon or IBM. Train it till you get to the point where it puts the vast majority of what you say into the correct words on the screen. Get a fast enough processor so that there is no or very little delay between what you say and the appearance of the text.

      Get another computer that has the application and the source code that you've written. Put it next to the text-to-speech PC. Don't multitask speech-to-text and your display of the source.

      Now get a picture of someone whom you feel stongly attracted to and put it between the two PCs. Pretend that that person is seriously interested in you and your work.

      Start the text-to-speech program. Look at the picture and the code screen. Start describing in long precise detail what you did, why you did it, how it works, and why it is so cool that you did it this way. Pretend real hard that the person in the picture between the PCs is seriously interested. Keep talking. Describe why all the other programmers are not doing it right and why your code is so much better. Read the lines of code occasionally.

      Go on for hours. Occasionally ramble about things that are off-subject. It doesn't matter.

      When you reach the end of your code description.
      Stop the text-to-speech program.

      DON'T Edit It! Attach the text file of your description to the end of your source code with comment characters or symbols at the beginning of each line if necessary.

      You have documented your work in a 21st century style. Your users will be able to follow it and they will get great satisfaction and productivity from your having done it in this way.

      One last thing. No matter what anyone says about the 10000 lines of 'comments' attached to the end of your source code file, Don't go back to the 1970's method of code documentation. It doesn't work. This method is superior. Memory is pennies a megabyte. Disk storage of the file is a dollar per gigabyte. Long detailed documentation is priceless.

      Thank you,

      Simonetta

      The new century, the new technology, the new way of doing the same old shit.
  • I love technology... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xeed (308294) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:04PM (#8399303) Journal
    I don't see how technology can cause stress.

    When I'm working, I'm almost always multitasking on my 3 computers (gotta keep that productivity up!!). I have to make sure to answer my cell phone, pager and work phone, often using the phone while typing or working on a project. Those people who used to concentrate on just one thing at once were really missing out. No matter where I am, someone will always be able to get ahold of me, but it doesn't matter, I don't need any time to myself. Of course, I have to work more in order to keep up with the tech trends. When I'm too busy working, I use my TiVo to record anything I may miss.

    However, I can't watch TV without glasses, as my eyesight has degraded due to staring at monitors all day. Although, that doesn't happen much. I have to work overtime so that I don't get outsourced.
    • by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:43PM (#8399899) Homepage Journal
      Sounds like you have stress due to a shitty job, not due to technology.

      I have three computers here, a couple projects, customer calls and am in charge of network security. Yet I don't have any stress. I have priorities, and I follow them. I too sometimes work overtime, but on my own terms...if I can't work overtime, I just say I can't. Obviously if there's so much work that they need you to stay late to do it, they need you, period.

      A lot of stress is caused by poor coping skills. You can say "no," you know. In fact, in my experience the ability to say "no" is important. All my managers have had that skill, and that's how they got their jobs. People respect a helpful worker, but they hate a "yes" man. Just be sure to say "yes" enough to make yourself useful, and there will suddenly be less to bitch about.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:06PM (#8400180)
        "A lot of stress is caused by poor coping skills. You can say "no," you know. In fact, in my experience the ability to say "no" is important. All my managers have had that skill, and that's how they got their jobs. "

        NO Dasmegabyte, you can't have a raise. NO Dasmegabyte you can't have time off. NO Dasmegabyte, we can't lower your copayment, and we don't cover that life-saving procedure. NO Dasmegabyte, you can't play unreal on our computers. NO Dasmegabyte, we can't pay you overtime. Something about new government rules.
        NO Dasmegabyte, bathroom breaks are 30 minutes apart. Do that again and your fired. NO Dasmegabyte, I will not be your friend. Now get back to work.
      • by ClubStew (113954) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:53PM (#8400816)

        My CEO doesn't have the ability to say "no" to potential clients (we don't make custom software, but it sure seems like it), so I'm left architecting solutions and don't have time to always do things right or to make them easily integrated with our other products that suffer from this as well.

        I can't say no because we're a start-up and aren't doing so hot, yet it's not easy finding a job these days despite my experience and credentials because 1) trade-school graduates are cheaper (and managers eventually learn why, but not soon enough for my benefit), or 2) everything's being out-sourced.

        So, go for you that you enjoy things. Really. But not everyone is so lucky. This is a competitive market and it doesn't get easier when cheaper labor exists that can get (barely) get the job done (notice I didn't say "right").

        • by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:32PM (#8401273) Homepage Journal
          This is still an example of how job choice affects stress, not how technology affects it.

          I should also point out I took a pay cut to take my current job. Last year, even with the extra income from Webslum I made 10% less than I did in 2002. But I had SO much less stress, a better relationship with my wife, and a much more positive outlook. No more shitty black metal poetry in my journal! I'm even starting to save money again.

          In summation: I'm sorry your job sucks, but you're the one who took it. Even in a bad market, there are stress free options, but many of them require hard decisions. Like telling your CEO that a product can't be kludged together without becoming unmanagable and requiring a massive amount of work a year down the road. Which is, of course, the sort of thing a good architect tells his boss up front, rather than slipping dates and looking like a fool.

          BTW: Even if they eventually want custom features, most of the time, your clients will be perfectly satisfied with what you have now, FOR now, and you can slowly work desired features into the main codebase. This is the ONLY way I've seen customer driven software work. Otherwise, you're stuck supporting multiple code bases, and custom hacking EVERYTHING from here on. Besides, I guarantee your client will need a few weeks (or months, depending on the product) to learn and utilize the current features. In that time, you could engineer a great solution, as opposed to delivering a crappy one right now.
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:48PM (#8399948) Homepage Journal
      When I'm working, I'm almost always multitasking on my 3 computers (gotta keep that productivity up!!). I have to make sure to answer my cell phone, pager and work phone, often using the phone while typing or working on a project. Those people who used to concentrate on just one thing at once were really missing out. No matter where I am, someone will always be able to get ahold of me, but it doesn't matter, I don't need any time to myself. Of course, I have to work more in order to keep up with the tech trends. When I'm too busy working, I use my TiVo to record anything I may miss. I'm sorry if I read this wrong, but it appears a bit facetious, and you mean your life is overrun by technology and your dependence upon and servitude of.

      Assuming you were driving and your cell phone came on and you were suddenly drawn into a conference call, your lack of attention to driving (and possible slowing down to avoid an accident as attention is divided) your apparent change of attitude in driving is observed by other drivers. The change lanes to get around you, or sit there and put up with it (possibly stewing over the situation) other drivers shift to accomodate, and so on. Perhaps time at work, to keep your job, places stress upon the family and how they interact with others. And so on.

      It does seem that KISS has been thrown out the window, to make life easier for someone, somewhere, but a lot of people are being put upon to make that happen. Maybe someone is suffering because they've slaved away under stress to give you the tools and devices you depend upon. Is more actually getting done, or is technology simply a circular treadmill with several people on it at once?

    • by fubar1971 (641721) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:18PM (#8401106) Homepage
      don't see how technology can cause stress.

      You are correct. Technolgy does not cause stress, people do. I have the coolest geek job in the worl, where I can play with technology all day, but then the phone rings. It ususally some stupid users, with a stupid problem. For example:

      (Actual event)
      Users: Fubar1971, did you steal my keyboard?
      Fubar1971: No, if I was to REPLACE your keyboard, I would have left you a better one to use.
      User: Someone stole my keyboard, are you sure it was not you?
      Fubar1971: No, I did not take your keyboard.
      User: Well I need a new keyboard then.
      Fubar: OK, I will be in your office in 5 minutes

      4 minutes and 30 seconds later
      User is no where to be found, and the office is locked

      30 minutes later after asking every person except the All MIGHTY himself to let me into the office, I go back to the tech department.

      Phone rings


      Fubar1971: Hello?
      User: I thought you were going to give me a new keyboard?
      Fubar1971: I tried, but you locked up your office and could not be found.
      User: Well I figured since I couldn't use my computer I would go to lunch.
      Fubar197: Well how am I suppose to replace your keyboard when you lock your office and nobody has a key?
      User: Oh, I didn't think of that. Well I'm here now, can you come down and install my new keyboard now?
      Fubar1971: Well, I'm in the middle of something right now, (Setting up new linux email server), but I can be there in about an hour.
      User: HOUR!!!! I need to check my email. This is totally unacceptable
      Fubar1971: I'm sorry, but that is the best I can do. You can always check your email from another workstation, or try using the internal web interface....
      User:HANGUP

      5 minutes later
      Phone Rings


      Fubar1971:Hello?
      Fubar1971's BOSS:Foo, what the hell, I just got an irrate phone call from User's boss that you refuse to install a keyboard.
      Fubar1971: No, I tried to this morning, but the user locked the office and went to lunch. When they returned, I was in the middle of installing the new email server and instructed them I would be there in an hour and they should try using a different workstation until I get there.
      Fubar1971's BOSS: Well they are pretty p*ssed, I need you to go down there and take care of it now.
      Fubar1971: What about the email server?
      Fubar1971's BOSS: You'll have to stay late and get it done afterhours.
      Fubar1971: Fine

      Fubar1971 goes back to the office to install the keyboard

      User: It's about time
      Fubar1971: silence
      User: See, my keyboard is missing, I still think you took it
      Fubar1971: NO, I DID NOT TAKE YOUR KEYBOARD!!

      Fubar1971 pulls the keyboard drawer out to feed the keyboard cable through to the computer, and what does he find... THE KEYBOARD!!

      Fubar1971: Is this your keyboard
      User: Why yes, how did you find it?
      Fubar1971: All I did was pull your keyboard drawer out.
      User: Well, why was my keyboard drawer closed? Did you close my keyboard drawer?
      Fubar1971: Have a nice day

      And did anyone apologize for wasting my time, NO. Did anyone apologize for making me stay late to get the email server up and running, NO. The technology does not cause stress, just stupid users!!!
    • multitasking (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 4of12 (97621) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:54PM (#8401540) Homepage Journal

      is your source of stress [dfw.com].

      People need to multi-task in more jobs today because all the single-tasking jobs are getting automated or moved overseas.

      You know, it's not so much the multi-tasks that's the problem, because doing different things is really more interesting.

      It's that today's typical set of tasks are subject to constant interruption that's the problem.

      I know woodworkers that do lots of different things, but they decide when to move from one task to another; not some buzzer, phone, email, or person bursting into the office with "Guess what!?!" Consequently, they're more relaxed .

  • More stress (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ghazgkull (83434) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:04PM (#8399309)
    Technology has definitely made my job more stressful. Now in addition to doing my own work, I have to write some guy's term paper.
  • One view (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:04PM (#8399311) Homepage Journal
    Funny you should ask...

    Years ago I was a happy little coder, plodding through Pascal, Basic, Assembler, C, etc., doing amazing things, datawarehousing and stuff with simple terminal interfaces

    Then came GUI's, not so bad but designing a GUI application required more time.

    Then came GUI apps for people who can't follow directions or need lots of verification so apps have to access servers constantly and there's always the worry about time-out, so it has to be bullet-proof and tolerant. More time developing.

    Last came web apps, which are a masochists dream come true. The target browser behaves stupidly (I'll let you guess which one, but it starts with an 'I') and you have to trap all sorts of junk with javascript before you even get to the app. I needs all sorts of little pop-up doo-dads to help people so they don't need to memorize anything or have a guide by their desk. Then the server has to make sense of things that you've already tried to verify at the point of entry, then you've got dozens of stored procedures and modules and the spec changes in some critical way you have to go back and completely re-engineer the app, because some things can only be done in a certain order (pre-requisite info). All this is expected to be done as fast as when I coded in all those old languages for a dumb terminal. You also have to work out the interfaces and how to do things in a half dozen toolkits, some or all of which you get no training on because there's no time for it or no budget, or nobody even offers training. Budgets are lean, so there's no Q/A people or their stretched very thin, do the testing yourself, do the docs yourself, do it all yourself. Very stressful.

    • Re:One view (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KrispyKringle (672903) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:11PM (#8399440)
      This isn't the evolution of technology in the workplace. It's the evolution of stupidity in the user. At least what you mention about GUI apps for people who can't follow directions and web applications for people with broken browsers.
      • Re:One view (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tgwtg (459187)
        I have to disagree.

        Users havn't changed. They have always and will always want their software to do everything possible to help them. Its just that in the old days the technology only did so much and the user was forced to do/understand/remember more. These days the software can simply do more so the user expects it to.
        • Re:One view (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Mike32768 (756833)
          "Users haven't changed." ??? Ah, but they have! In the old days, "Users" of technical things were not your run-of-the-mill, I-can't-set-my-VCR, Joe-six-pack types. Today they are. This puts a very different spin on what consititutes a finished product. This is not bad, as most users, even highly technical ones, benefit from an easier-to-use interface, but it does mean more work for the design engineer. Now that he has a larger target audience (a good thing if you ask the salesmen), he has to worry a l
      • I disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

        by GoChickenFat (743372) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:30PM (#8401246)
        This isn't the evolution of technology in the workplace. It's the evolution of stupidity in the user. At least what you mention about GUI apps for people who can't follow directions and web applications for people with broken browsers.

        I disagree. This issue is likely more related to the expansion of the user base. I think it's unreasonable to expect every technology user to become an expert; especially considering the proliferation of technology in our everyday lives. For a technology tool to be useful it must also contain a certain amount of intuitive capabilities. Intuition is generally derived from past experience. Since developers and systems designers typically have control over what and how information is presented to the user it is not always practical to expect the user to just "know" what to do next. Perhaps they could burn time reading the poorly constructed directions that the developer created but the reality is usually such that the user just needs to get a task accomplished. Not to become an expert in the technology?

        btw...a broken browser is a relative observation. Firfox is "broken" to me when I view certain pages that work fine in IE and Netscape.

        Technology is not limited to computers and electronic things. Technology by definition is the practical application of knowledge. It's the shear number of "practical applications of knowledge" that have me feeling overwhelmed, stressed and out of control. So many applications of technology have left me feeling naive and ignorant despite my best attempts to keep up and the fact that I once was considered to be on top of these things. Now I have to be even more concerned with the possibility that what I learned and applied yesterday being considered foolish and flawed tomorrow.

        Stress is a reaction to an environmental pressure. The proliferation of new technology certainly has increased mental and physical environment pressures. Someone or something will be affected and therefore stress will always be an absolute consequence of new technology.
    • Re:One view (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 36526542DD (456961)
      Hey, have you been peeking in my cubicle?!?

      Seriously, though, Microsoft's flaunting and intentional breaking of CSS, HTML, JavaScript, XML, (to name a few) have made my life as a web app designer a lot harder.

      If the existing specs were stuck to religiously, think of how much more productive the internet IT world would be, and how much consumers would benefit.

      Thanks a lot Bill. I'll send you a Bill.
    • Re:One view (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TALlama (462873) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:51PM (#8399989) Homepage
      So your stress level has gone up because the company you work for has decided to lower the stress level of their customers, who wanted GUIs with on-screen help, intuitive interfaces, and the like. So the company has decided that the people who pay them should have less stress, while the people who they pay can handle a little more.

      Sorry, but it seems pretty reasonable to me.
  • voicemail (Score:5, Funny)

    by Frymaster (171343) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:04PM (#8399320) Homepage Journal
    suppose to make your job easier, made it any less stressful? If so, how?

    voicemail is a tech that makes my life easier. now i never have to talk to management or clients... when they call, they're greated with a nice "mailbox full" message and i get some peace and quiet.

  • by Bingo Foo (179380) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:05PM (#8399343)
    I'm a researcher in a soft, ill-defined pseudoscientific field. I'd like to ask a loaded question so that I can reinterpret your results into a deceptive "confirmation" of my preconceptions. Would you like to participate?
  • by tomblackwell (6196) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:06PM (#8399349) Homepage
    When I was in University, I had a lot of assignments and papers to write. It was very stressful. I would guess that if you could get other people to do your homework for you, using the Web, then your total stress level would decrease.

    You tell me. Has it?
    • by Rahga (13479) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:24PM (#8399641) Homepage Journal
      Public surveys are nothing new, especially when it comes to higher learning.... When you get right down to it, education is about getting more done with less effort. No matter which path this researcher takes, either in private study or through public survey, his results will be inconclusive. When results are inconclusive, why bother with theory and intense study? I'd phone this one in too, if I were him. Or, perhaps, choose a different topic.
  • by pvdan (756212) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:06PM (#8399352)
    You must be new here.
  • Stress has existed down the ages! Just because a study shows an association between technology and stress this does not mean much. Any decent statistics student will tell you that CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION. This is a simple fact, and one that is often overlooked.
    • by cindy (19345) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:29PM (#8399711)
      Right on!
      When I was a kid I was stressed about friends.
      When I was in school I was stressed about tests.
      When I was working in retail I was stressed about making my quota. (I still have nightmares about that.)
      When I did graphics I was stressed about deadlines.
      When I started doing them on the computer, I was STILL stressed ahout deadlines.
      Now that I code for a living, I'm stressed about bugs.
      After the dot.com bust, I stress about my job going overseas.
      Since I'm getting older, I stress about retirement.
      Stress is part of life. Technology can be a source of stress, but so can anything else. You have to learn how to deal with it.

      deeeeep breaths... deeeep breaths... feeeeeel the stress flow out...
    • by big_O_of_n! (712136) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:29PM (#8399718)
      We need to start issuing licenses to practice statistics. News editors, reporters, and other people with media access who don't understand statistics see a study showing a correlation between two events, they put it out to the public with an implication that there's a cause/effect relationship, and the underinformed public buys into it.

      There's a correlation between buying high-priced luxury automobiles and being able to afford quality health care. That doesn't mean you should go out and buy an expensive car if you're having trouble paying for health care.
    • This guy is going about it right. For research, espically of human subjects, you notice something that you think might be related, like technology and stress. Well just because you think it might be related, doesn't mean it is. The next step is to gather some observational evidence. This can be watching people, taking surveys (as in this case), and so on. You then see if the observational evidence supports your theory. It's not going to give you anything more than a correlation, but if you don't even see th
  • by addie (470476) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:07PM (#8399363)
    Has the evolution of technology in the workplace (computer, internet, email, etc...), which is suppose to make your job easier, made it any less stressful?

    Er... that's a tough one. It does get stressful having to pretend I'm not reading /. all day long. Work? What me worry?
  • by kfg (145172) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:07PM (#8399379)
    Other people cause stress. So the mail server goes down, big deal. Unless people, like your boss, get all worked up over it.

    Stress is a function of living beings, not machines.

    KFG
    • by dead sun (104217) <(aranach) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:49PM (#8400752) Homepage Journal
      You can cause yourself stress as well by not working to your own personal feeling of what your level of quality should be. If you care a lot about how the mail server you put together is working and it goes down, it can be a stressful event simply because you were expecting it to stay up and you want to get to the cause of what made it crash.

      Apart from that, everybody keeps looking at stress as though it's a bad thing. I know some of my best work is done under the heavy pressure of stress. While a lot of stress certainly wouldn't be a healthy level for me to maintain, a bit of stress, even really intense stress, can be good for you and keep you from being complacent. I'd hate to lead a completely stress free life.

  • Balance! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neiffer (698776) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:08PM (#8399397) Homepage
    It's always a balancing act, in my view. Yes, I get frustrated with hardware problems, software problems (stupid Office...crashed on my 3 times just last night on an otherwise rock stable box) and the like, but I also realize that I am a lot more productive and entertained, even if there are distractions. I am always entertained by people that talk about how much time the computers take and then they say something silly like "back when I was on a typewriter, blah, blah, blah" and I usually retort that they are usually doing the jobs of 4 or 5 staff people because of the computer, including graphics design, secretary and assistant.
  • I feel the stress (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mytec (686565) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:09PM (#8399403) Journal

    Technology hasn't made it less stressful for me. Instead, with every new release of foo, expectations are heightened and project completion time tables are shortened based on the marketing brochures or eager sales reps who will say just about anything about the new foo to a desperate ear. I or anyone else in the group then feels the stress of not "living up to" the claims of the technology.

  • by Aliencow (653119) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:09PM (#8399406) Homepage Journal
    Just by testing your backups every so often...helps with sleep problems I heard.
  • by michael path (94586) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:10PM (#8399410) Homepage Journal
    At the risk of oversimplifying, the one constant that I see affecting stress in my job and those around me is expectation.

    As technology improves, the expectations placed are higher. Even if the facilities aren't there to achieve them, I'm being asked more seemingly insurmountable tasks.

    Then again, being asked to "secure" a network....*grumbles*.

    *unplugs internet connection*

    +++
    NO CARRIER
  • Push it harder! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bigbadbob0 (726480) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:10PM (#8399413)
    I would think that if new technology isn't providing enough stress for you, you're not pushing it hard enough. Sure, I can work at half of my ability all day long and have zero stress. Or I can work at 100% of my ability and have all of the stress that I thrive in.

    However, new technology lets me accomplish more in the same amount of time when compared with old technology. How much more? Enough. Now buy me a new G5 please.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:10PM (#8399414)
    • The singular of "data" is not "anectdote", nor "slashdot post".
    • Control your experiment. You'll have to find an online board full of people who don't use technology and evaluate their stress levels.
  • by ValourX (677178) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:10PM (#8399416) Homepage

    You cannot rightfully make a broad, sweeping generalization about stress and computers because of the limitless range of their uses and functions. For most Slashdotters and geeks, computers are a hobby and a way to relieve stress. For secretaries, journalists and others who depend on computers solely for work, computers can be a source of horrible stress.

    Many people play games on their computer to relieve stress. Others find new stress by trying to get their computer adjusted so that it can play games.

    Computers have introduced a new kind of tool to the human race; one that can be used for a broader range of applications (in the old sense) than anything that came before them. Computers do not cause stress; people cause stress for themselves or allow outside forces to enhance or reduce their stress. To blame a machine as a source of stress is as stupid as blaming your dinner for a lack of taste.

    -Jem
    • You cannot rightfully make a broad, sweeping generalization about stress and computers because of the limitless range of their uses and functions. For most Slashdotters and geeks, computers are a hobby and a way to relieve stress. For secretaries, journalists and others who depend on computers solely for work, computers can be a source of horrible stress.

      Actually, you can rightfully make a broad, sweeping generalization about stress and computers...if you research the subject and find that there is correl
  • by prostoalex (308614) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:10PM (#8399418) Homepage Journal
    Technology encourages stress: Sitting on the office chair in the cubicle in front of a monitor is not the best way to let those muscles relax and blood flow through your body. Unfortunately, if I am in the middle of working on some problem or complex stuff, I am too involved to stand up and take a walk or something.

    Technology relieves stress: During natural breaks through my workday it's easier for me now to go to TheOnion, Google News or Slashdot and just take a mental break. Instant messaging is yet another distraction that can be bothersome sometimes, but generally allows you to communicate with a bunch of people you know and feel like you're in the middle of a friendly conversation.
  • Mostly love it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Koyaanisqatsi (581196) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:10PM (#8399420)
    Before email was widespread outside the academia, most of the interaction with your customers would be by phone, which if you're a developer can be a PITA, cause when the phone rings you have to stop whatever you're doing to take care of that immediately.

    Nowadays I found myself dealing w/ customers thorough mostly email and (sometimes) IM, and it is so much easier to ignore it while on a coding rage and say deal with it once every hour. Customers still get a quick feedback and I can organize myself better.
    • Re:Mostly love it. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Short Circuit (52384)
      One catagory of people who's lives have been made more difficult by technology: Customer service.

      Whether that be tech support over the phone, or (If you consider "Windows" a "technology", then there's a big boost in your stress right there.) tutoring students taking computer courses at community college, technology hasn't helped a great deal.

      With every additional bit of sophistication, more training is required of the user. Unless, of course, you can train the user to figure things out on their own. Th
  • Stress... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thrillbert (146343) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:10PM (#8399429) Homepage
    Pretty interesting topic you have chosen, and one that not many people even think about. I know that I have not thought about this, or at least, not in this sense.

    As any normal individual, I have a certain level of stress in my life. Both at work with a boss that refuses to recognize my contributions, and at home dealing with the teenager of the house who refuses to accept my authority.. for the most part, I would say that the technology in my house (3 servers, 1 desktop and 1 laptop, all mine!@#!@$) relieves some of this stress and tension. I love to sit down in front of my computer and play xpatience or pacman after an argument, and at work, I love to spend my day reading /. of course.

    So even though in these scenarios computers help relieve the stress, there are situations where the technology creates a lot more stress than we need, such is the case when things don't work as advertised.. or when that hardware keeps failing but you cannot duplicate it.. or maybe when no matter what you try, you can't get that program running/compiled..

    So I would think that depending on the type of work that you do on your system, it is either a stress reliever or a stress source..

    ---
    Never let your schooling interfere with your education.
  • by RollingThunder (88952) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:11PM (#8399441)
    Generally, I'm fine using technology.

    It's when other people use it, and screw up, and I have to bail them out, that I get stressed.

    (he says, jokingly, 12 hours after having to reinstall the OS because a drive decided to cough up a lung... what stress?)
  • Stupid research (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:11PM (#8399448) Journal
    There is probably a correlation between technology and stress. However, it is not so simple. A more thourough investigation would lead to the conclusion that BAD technology is corelated to stress. It just sof happens that a lot of the technology people encounter in the workplace is not very good ( custom inhouse vb/java applications that serve the buisness need, but have horrible interfaces. riddled with bugs).
  • by pvdan (756212) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:11PM (#8399454)
    First it was just coffee breaks. Then came tetris on computer + gossips. Now I have to keep up with a whole bunch of websites, emails, instant messages from buddies, play tetris and still have time for coffee breaks. See how technology has stressed me out at work.
  • by richardbowers (143034) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:12PM (#8399471)
    Well, since I've been working in computers the whole time, computers themselves haven't made my life any less stressful. But some of the advances have helped.

    For example, back in college, I supported a computer lab that didn't have a LAN or any hard drives. All of the original PCs had boot disks, and invariably, some student would take the boot disk, remove the little piece of tape off the write protect tab, and save their term paper to the boot disk. Then, they'd wonder why they couldn't find it a week later, on a different computer. Nowadays, those people are all in management at major software companies, mostly in the American southwest, but they can keep their files on shared drives, so they don't lose them, except when they click on attachments in Outlook.

    The main technology that has made things less stressful has been quality search engines. It used to be really hard to figure out if a student had plagerized a paper - now, I know they all have. But seriously, now I can just type a few words in a search engine and figure out where they got their ideas.

    A counter example: cell phones. Back when they were expensive, had short battery lives, and lousy coverage, I could actually go to a movie, a park, or a religious service without being called. Sure, its nice to be able to sit on hold with AAA if my car dies on the highway, but I could do with being a little less accessible the rest of the time.
  • by OpenSourced (323149) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:13PM (#8399473) Journal
    New information technologies only add to stress. The more up-to-date information you have, the more you are requested to be up-to-date. The mails have a tendency to arrive at the same time, and you are considered rude, or worse, improductive, if you leave them a long time without answering. The more ways you have to comunicate, the bigger are your chances to be interrupted at the worst possible moment (think cell phone). The easier the communication is, the easier it's to consider that you can work everywhere, home, plane, traffic jam...

    The demands on your time and attention only grow with technology, and so stress grows. It's a bit of an edge example, but I've been a stock investor for the last 20 years, and it was much more peaceful when I only could check the quotes once a day in the morning papers.

  • by j0eshm0e (720044) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:13PM (#8399475)

    I think that technology and stress do not directly relate but that technology has created a faster pace. Technology creates 'higher and faster' expectations that not everyone can keep up with.

    Falling behind creates stress.

  • Gardening. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:13PM (#8399485) Homepage
    I work from home. In the spring and summer I garden, every few hours I go outside and "de-tech", I take a good old garden hoe and shovel and go dig in the dirt. I notice I have a *LOT* more unrelieved stress in the winter when I don't get out and get the light and a good blast of sunshine. I close my eyes and look toward the sun to get my body clock back in sync. Then, after a few minutes outside (or just barefoot in the garden), I'm ready to go back to coding.
  • by tweakr (90832) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:16PM (#8399526)
    I had someone pass me a copy of a magazine article once that described how much computer support (tech, web, etc) staff actually dislike taking vacation.

    Why? because it's one of the few jobs where the work stacks up so much, that 5 minutes after you get back from vacation - regardless of how relaxing or fun it was - you're right back to the same (or greater) level of frustration and work stress that you had before you left....

    After having been in the computer tech and internet world (support, as well as development), I can honestly say that I agree with this - especially for tech staff that are in smaller companies or offices where there isn't anyone to really cover your work while you're gone....

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:16PM (#8399528) Homepage Journal
    If it works, it's invisible. Nobody's stressed out by indoor plumbing or electric light.

    Our lives are full of technology that doesn't work. Stress is when you're on deadline and the copier breaks down.

    Computers, as currently implemented in the most widespread configurations, are a nightmare.
  • by foxtrot (14140) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:17PM (#8399543)
    I'm a unix sysdamin for a living. Most of the stresses in my life are directly related to technology, largely because I'm responsible for making the technology do what it was supposed to do when it doesn't.

    When I get home, I fire up my PC with its whizzy net connection and surf or play Enemy Territory... or perhaps I see what Tivo watched for me, or pop in a DVD.

    When I have time off, I like to travel-- car, airplane, boat, whatever.

    It seems to me that technology may be the main cause of my stress, but it's just as large a reducer of stress in my life. What fun would a vacation be if I couldn't go somewhere else and see it? (and shoot pictures of it with my digital camera?) How insane would I be by now if I couldn't come home and blow off steam by blowing up your command post?

    But then, what's technology, anyhow? Sure I enjoy a good book now and again, too. But even that took mass-production of paper and electric lighting to do... Does that count?
  • by revery (456516) * <charles&cac2,net> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:18PM (#8399552) Homepage
    Technology has the potential to modify our expectations in almost every area of our lives. It changes our thoughts about safety. It changes our relationship to time. It changes how we expect others to communicate (whether we communicate that way or not - we are frequently hypocrites) What's more significant, is that it does not do this to us alone, it does it to everyone around us as well, so that our employer expects different things, our spouses, our schools, etc. Many times, the expectations that change are not reasonable at all.

    Case in point:
    I remember when I was growing up (12-16 years ago), my family lived in a very rural area. On Saturdays my mother would go into town for groceries and general shopping. She would be gone for about 3 hours. Occasionally, depending on how many places she went, how much she bought, if she went all the way into a town with a mall, she would be gone for 5 to 6 hours. She often forgot to tell my father she would be gone that long. On times like that, when she was gone for more than four hours, my father and I would step outside to look for her (this was irrational, as we could see about half a mile down the road, nevertheless we did it) and comment about how long she had been gone. We would look out the window more and more frequently as she was gone longer and longer. I know my father worried, but there wasn't much you could do short of getting in the truck and driving toward town. There were no cell phones (or if there were, we did not have one, and there were no cell towers around our house)

    Flash-forward to today and you see a very different response to these "where are they?" situations. I've seen people dial someone's cell phone number over and over for hours trying to get hold of them. I've pretty much done the same thing myself, when I've been worried about my wife. When you do finally get hold of them, you are emotionally drained, relieved, and a little bit angry.

    "Are you, OK!!!?" you demand of them.
    "I had the cell phone turned off," they say, or, "It was in my purse and I didn't hear it ring." They even seem a bit puzzled by your concern. In your mind, they were stranded somewhere, or kidnapped, or worse.

    My point (and I'm sorry for the long ramble) is that technology isn't exactly the culprit here, it's the way we let it change what we expect. The ability to reach out and touch someone no matter where they are makes us fear the worse when it ceases to be possible.

    I think there are plenty of other similar relationships between technology and expectation, but I'll let someone else look at them, my lunch break is almost over.

    --
    Looking for automated code conversion services?
    (COBOL, Fotran, PL/I, Assembler to COBOL, C, C++, C#, Java, etc.)
    Check out Datatek, Inc. [datatek-net.com]
  • Fill to caoacity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wubby (56755) <tduvally@@@duvally...com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:20PM (#8399582) Homepage Journal
    I see stress as a limiting factor in what can be accomplished in life. Regardless of the technologies available to a person, stress can be increased, and will be (as needed) until it effects the job.

    It's all about capacity. Technology may have made our jobs easier (in comparison to the pre-technology period), but by freeing that capacity for other tasks, tasks are thusly assigned. Jobs now include more, and capacity is tested again to find the point at which stess creates the limit.

    Yeah, that sounds good.
  • Big Picture (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:22PM (#8399617) Homepage Journal
    I don't worry about my next meal, or being the next meal of a predator.

    I never want for clean water.

    I have clothes that will protect me from nearly any weather conditions I am likely to encounter.

    I have a mode of transportation that can easily take me from place to place at 100 miles per hour, in total comfort.

    I expect to live to fully twice the age I would expect absent technology.

    In spite of my "unnatural" long life I expect my shelter to last even longer . . . unless the land becomes more valuable than the building on it.

    If anyone comes into that shelter to take what I have I can poke .44 inch holes in him without breaking a sweat, then call someone miles away to collect the body without even raising my voice.

    I like technology. Makes life much less nasty, brutish, and short.

    -Peter

    PS: I anxiously await a counter-argument about car accidents, chemical food preservatives, and chemical warfare.

    An extra point if you refrain from mentioning President Bush. Half a point if you mention him, but manage to refer to him by a proper name and/or title.

    -P
    • by 110010001000 (697113) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:51PM (#8399985) Homepage Journal
      I would agree with this except for the fact it is well known that Dubya orders the FDA to add chemical preservatives (which are incidentally designed in a secret chemical warfare lab) into our food which increases the number and fatality of car accidents all in an attempt to reduce the amount of social security payouts but really serves to increase the number of grammatical errors on web blogs.
  • by CyBlue (701644) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:23PM (#8399635)
    Considering what life was like before technology, I think I can welcome the stress. I don't have to worry as much about dieing from a broken leg. If my house isn't built before winter, I can just stay in my apartment with the heat on 80 instead of freezing solid in the first blizzard. I get email notifications on my cell phone telling me that my flight is cancelled. My bills are auto-paid for me.... and the list goes on. Technology, for better or worse, has put more structure in our lives. I drives our daily schedules telling you when to wake up, when to proceed through the intersection and that you're probably going to die in 5 months from the headache you have now. For me, technology only becomes stressful when its something that I've failed to keep up with.
  • by crmartin (98227) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:26PM (#8399669)
    After 35 years in the technology business, I think I can say with some authority that it's not the technology that causes the stress.

    It's management.
  • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:27PM (#8399688)
    First few weeks at a new job: So energized, able to work 24/7, and glad to do it.

    Past the initial enthusiasm: High stress due to harsh deadlines.

    After realizing that deadlines arent really important anyway: Stress evaporates due to mounting cynicism.

    After job loss: Zero stress while on Unemployment insurance.

    End of unemployment insurance looms: High stress of finding a new job.

    First few weeks of new job... Repeat cycle.
  • Human Nature (Score:3, Interesting)

    by greendot (104457) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:27PM (#8399692)
    Duh.

    No matter what we build for ourselves to make things "easier", it is human nature to push ourselves and also the job of management to push. Even though we invent "X" to reduce 20% of the time spent doing "Y" task in the workspace, that extra 20% will be filled up with a new task.

    Now, if management didn't KNOW about invention "X" and we were away from them so they never knew our effeciency, then we could relax, because we're optimizing that one particular job. But when things become "dynamic", we'll always be pushed to the limit.

    This whole "to make our lives easier" is just marketing spin in order to appeal to the masses. You have your basket of primal urges that marketers can pull from, laziness is one.

    You wouldn't get away with "eWhammo! brings together 10 exciting technologies into such an easy product that you double your productivity. It's never been eaiser to cut costs (lay-offs) and boost productivity 20% (overtime, because remaining employees are scared shittless)."
  • Life (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Squeeze Truck (2971) <xmsho@yahoo.com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:31PM (#8399739) Homepage
    There's no question that contact with living things is a stress reducer. Plants, animals, and even other human beings. Machines can't really do that for me.

    Granted I only mean physical contact. Having to deal with the needs of said living things is another story.
  • by reimero (194707) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:31PM (#8399743)
    I work in technical services in an academic library. In library parlance, "tech services" refers less to library automation per se than it does to acquisitions, cataloging, processing and all those other "behind-the-scenes" things that happen that get the books on the shelf where they ought to be. For libraries, the advent of the computerized catalog was a HUGE breakthrough, for a number of reasons. For starters, thanks to the Library of Congress and consortia like OCLC and RLIN, any library can (for a small fee) download existing cataloging records, insert library-specific data (such as barcodes, for instance) and have a full record for that title much faster than the days they had to catalog everything by hand.

    Library automation has also made online catalogs themselves much more accurate and much more precise. If I'm looking for a book about CowboyNeal, back in the days of the card catalog, it would be hard to track down unless I knew a title, and I'd probably have to ask a librarian for the approximate call number. Modern online catalogs are essentially search engines that use search engine logic. Some even have the capability of searching specific fields within records (subject= cowboyneal & author= cdrtaco)

    On the surface, this is a very good thing, and has made libraries a LOT more efficient. One library I used to work at had a card catalog backlog of several weeks. Once they automated, the turnaround on new materials is generally not more than 24 hours.

    The downside to all this is that this power has made online catalogs quite unintuitive. Average Joe Library User is just as confused about the proper use of the online catalog as back when he was confused about the proper use of card catalogs. The other downside is that I'm finding that there's a definite tendency to fight the library system rather than work with it: the assumption is that the computer is in error and therefore requires lots of checking. The very concept of assuming that the system is correct is rather foreign.

    In some libraries, at least, the stress comes not because of automation, but rather from not knowing how to implement it correctly.
  • by JMan1 (200342) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:34PM (#8399775)
    Often I'll look up from one of my screens and realize that my entire body is tense and I haven't taken a full breath in what must be a couple of hours. Between sitting at a computer all day, listening to the radio in my car, and turning the t.v. on at home, I can often spend an entire day under technology's spell. Every now and then I'll come up out of the technotrance and just sit or putter around for a couple of hours with all of the post-lightbulb inventions switched off and feel myself returning to the real world.

    It seems I must unplug myself for at least a few hours a day to recharge.
  • by Stradenko (160417) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:38PM (#8399827) Homepage
    As far as IT is concerned, it is *not* stressful.
    Nobody dies when you foul something up. It doesn't affect a whole lot, maybe some company's profit margin, or delivery of some merchandise.

    Try being an airplane mechaninc, where you are held criminally liable for every corpse related to something that breaks if you've signed off on it.

    Maybe a fire fighter, where when you don't do your job correctly people die.

    Policeman, when you fail to do your job, you die, innocent people die...

    Compared to these, IT is a cakewalk.

    And yeah, I know that IT has a strong influence in many of these fields, but it is abstracted from the first-hand death inherent in each.
  • What stresses me out (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dalroth (85450) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:39PM (#8399837) Homepage Journal
    Technologies that stress me out at work (rated in order of aggravation, 1 being the worst).

    1. Telephones: The god awfull ringing all day long is distracting. Speaker phone conversations are incredibly irritating. The constant interruptions to the work you do are infuriating. And the coworker in the cubicle next to you shushing you because your talking about a REAL problem with your other coworker is louder than his Goddamn conference call ON SPEAKERPHONE.

    2. Email: People who expect an immediate reponse from you for every stupid little infuriating Email they send. If you want a response, turn on return receipts, I have work to do and can't be checking my email every 30 seconds just for YOU. I have a company with a couple thousand people in it, you're not that special. I also hate Email filters (OUTLOOK) that still popup the new mail notification icons/noises/dialogs/whatever when you get an email, EVEN IF YOU SET IT TO BE DELETED OR MARKED AS ALREADY READ!@!@#%!#%!#

    3. Windows 5 minute boot: Every Goddamn morning I get to work, something is wrong and needs to be fixed NOW NOW NOW, but I have to wait 5 minutes before my stupid laptop finishes booting (and that includes the three minutes I sit at the desktop waiting for all the background services to load). I have a P3 and a gig of RAM on the damn thing, and it's a standard W2K image that the WHOLE COMPANY uses!

    4. Pop/Candy machines: It's 6pm. I'm thirsty/starving. There's one Gatorade left. I put in my dollar. The Goddamn Gatorade gets stuck. COME ON!! It's 2004! Can't we make a freakin' pop machine that works already?!?!

    5. Computer Software: Nothing every works right and I spend a good half hour each day recovering from crashed programs, or whacked out states of all the software I used. None of it ever works right. I've even had Notepad crash my computer (I'm sure it was a symptom of another problem, but it's still shocking when it happens).

    Stuff that doesn't bother me right now (because we don't use it at my current job), but would be in this top 5 list if we did:

    1. Instant Messaging: It's the living hell of Telephone and Email combined into a single system. Worst of all, if you don't configure it properly, it tells everybody EXACTLY when you are at your desk.

    Bryan
  • by NanoGator (522640) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:41PM (#8399865) Homepage Journal
    Truth be told, I find the human part of technology to be more stressful than the technology itself. The gadgets I have around me are tools. The people I have around me are demands. "Get this done by the next trade show! Long term impact of this be damned!"

    Maybe I'm oversimplifing a bit. I just find the tappity tap at my keyboard parts of the day to be the most serene for me. Boy do I hate when the phone rings...

  • by orbbro (467373) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:48PM (#8399947) Homepage

    Because, in a serendipitous coincidence, on slashdot's front page, you'll find and article titled Timeshifting: Cram More into Life [slashdot.org].

    If you read the description on the front page, you'll find a person who's seeking to use technology to its fullest to push out all the "dead space" in his life.

    Eventually, there's nothing that technology can't provide. That is, the only thing technology can't provide is nothing.

    I'd argue that, on occasion, people need a little nothing -- quiet, distractionless, reflecting time that you could call 'down' time -- and we're getting less and less of it.

    In fact, we are so used to getting no down time that we don't even know what we're missing. All this distraction is like a diet of fast food: tastes good at the time, but nutritionally deficient, if not outright destructive.

    But maybe I'm just old fashioned.

  • Lost in Translation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by benjamindees (441808) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:49PM (#8399968) Homepage
    As I watched that movie, I realized that there are probably other cultures, the Japanese being one of them, that do a *much* better job of utilizing technology than Americans do. Even though they have a population density that is something like 5x ours, they seem to do a decent job (better than we would) of dealing with stress and finding "alone time" for themselves. I think that technology, when properly integrated into our lives, can help us deal with the hectic schedules and stresses of dealing with other people instead of adding to it.

    Americans tend to use new technologies as a plaything rather than as a real tool. Segways, computers, and all those handheld things make great examples. Consider that paper usage went *up* as computers and printers began to be adopted in US businesses and you'll see what I'm talking about. Most businesses I deal with are more interested in tracking their employees goof-off time on the internet than increasing their productivity with new ways of doing things. It's the American way: If we can't understand it, we use it for Solitaire.

    Some things I'm thinking about that "Lost in Translation" specifically reminded me of:

    cars: these cause more stress than they solve, and health problems to boot.

    swimming pools: these help people deal with stress. The problem is, those who can afford them *don't* need them by definition. In the US, you don't own a pool unless you're retired. Even then, you can only use it for goofing-off since it's outdoors.

    home automation: In the US, home automation is to impress your friends. I'm sure elsewhere, it's to help you live your life more comfortably.
  • Look around... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cherokee158 (701472) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:49PM (#8399969)
    I think your task is simpler if you define your terms first. Psychologists often define stress as being the result of conflict...normally internal ones. Conflicting desires, or desires at odds with your environment, or an environment hostile to your physical needs can all cause stress.

    If you examine the way technology has altered our environment, both physically and psychologically, I think you will find plenty of correlation between it and stress. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to notice how maladapted we are for our twenty-first centruy lifestyle. We are overpopulating, overeating, and generally abusing ourselves and one another to an extent unheard of in societies further back along the technology curve. (I have rarely seen obese people anywhere but America. Think of tha amount of pain and suffering caused by simply being overweight...) We are bombarding eachother with advertising specifically designed to make us unhappy with our lot in life, killing eachother at wartime casualty rates on the highways, and poisoning our air, water and food supply with an ever-increasing output of waste. We cram ourselves into little boxes all day long, devoid of fresh air, sunlight and constantly exposed to electromagnetic radiation, sitting unblinking in front of CRT's and LCD's while stuffing industrially produced food into our faces, then go home and do the same thing.

    I'll tell you what: when I was 18, I was a bit of a vagrant. I lived on the street for several weeks. I was certainly not a pillar of the community.

    But I never felt freer or more stress free than I did then. All I had to worry about was where I would eat and sleep next. Simple. I didn't have things to clean, things to fix, things to do, people to pay, people to boss me around, people to be prettier than, places to go...I simply had to survive. There is a clarity of life that rapidly gets blurred by twenty-first century living. I will probably end up moving to a log cabin in the mountains to recapture that feeling.

    Technology can make you comfortable...too comfortable, in fact...but it will never make life simple, and I think it is an excellent source of stress. The only thing better at producing stress than technology is other people...and there wouldn't be so damn many of them if it weren't for technology.

    Can I write your paper?
  • by Pedrito (94783) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:51PM (#8399983) Homepage
    Technology certainly doesn't cause stress in itself. I think stress comes from several different areas. In terms of software, I think the issues are generally buggy software, failure of people to communicate properly, and probably misguided or unrealistic expectations. I think these three things are my biggest sources of stress, in no particular order.

    Buggy software isn't usually a huge stress problem for me, but it is for a lot of people. Failure to commmunicate for a software developer can be a huge source of stress, though. For example, I have a client right now who, after we finalized the requirements, made several major changes (and countless small ones) to the system after it was developed. I tried to communicate the impact that would have on the timeline. He seemed to understand that, but then he started talking about how it was supposed to be done months ago (based on the original requirements) and now can't seem to understand the impact his changes had, even though I told him from day 1.

    This same client is causing issues with unrealistic expectations. The software was about 8 months in development and we're nearing the end. It's been in testing for 2 days and he's frustrated because they're finding bugs. I made it clear to him before we started testing that I expected us to find bugs and that's why we are testing. Now he's talking about throwing out the entire project and starting over from scratch with a different developer (which frankly, at this point, would be fine with me).

    So, from my point of view, as a software developer, these are the things that cause me stress.

  • IMHO (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:53PM (#8400011) Homepage Journal
    I think that yes, technology is inherently stressful. Here's why: Our brains evolved on the plains of Africa, and they've changed little since. Our brains developed to process fractal and fluidic shapes such as grasses, trees, clouds, mountains and streams. We find these things inherently beatiful. They indicate food and raw materials from which to fashion a living. More broadly they denote health and growth.

    Now that we live in cities, our visual system is deprived of much of the 'beatiful' input. Instead we have geometric shapes, which architecture employs to make buildings that don't fall down. (Remember when fractals first hit popular media? Eveyone was all 'ooh aah' -- even when you see one for the 100th time, it still has this intriguing beauty. Geomtric shapes don't have this.)

    Also, our soundscape has radically changed. Instead of forest voices, we hear whirs and hums of machines. I know personally that my stress level drops immediately when I turn of the computer that has loud fans.

    Long story short, our evolution in Africa created brains that was attracted to certain things, and sought them out, becuase they helped us survive. We are deprived of that stimulation these days.

    Now, I'm not saying we all need to go back to living in caves, but maybe as a start, we could have more plants in homes, or trees in cities. Perhaps use fractal shapes in our architecture -- an interesting person to look at is the artist Hundertwasser. He drew pictures and designed models of buildings that had a natural appeal [google.com]. They were based on wavy shapes, not geometric.

  • by janimal (172428) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:54PM (#8400019)
    So even if the technology reduces stress for the same workload, the workload increases, so that stress remains the same... so that:

    DIFFICULTY x WORK = STRESS = a constant

    make that your thesis.

    J
  • by sckienle (588934) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:56PM (#8400034)

    Any stress I have in my job was not directly caused by technology. But, it is caused because every assumes that technology makes things faster.

    As an example, the assumption: we can support a new process before the business has fully defined it because software isn't like buildings, it can be changed in no time.

  • by John Murdoch (102085) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:00PM (#8400093) Homepage Journal

    Hi!

    I think you should bear in mind that the concept of "stress" as we think of it is relatively new. In earlier days people would not think of an atmosphere where one was

    • highly paid, by practically any standard
    • working inside
    • doing no heavy lifting

    ...as having any down sides at all. Lots and lots of jobs--even "professional" jobs--through history have involved real risk. A lot of software developers are infatuated with the notion that software is a form of engineering--so for fun, let's compare a software developer's job with some of the real engineering disciplines. The comparison might be informative.

    Civil engineering
    These guys build tunnels, which might cave in; they build bridges, which might collapse; they climb mountains, ford streams, confront wild animals, and deal with all sorts of heat, cold, rain, snow, etc., while surveying.
    Comparison: The software "engineer" moves into a new cubicle with a $900 Herman Miller Aeron chair, and bitches because his new cube is one hundred feet further from the cappucino machine.
    Conclusion: Software is a lot less stressful.

    Electrical engineering
    These guys build electrical devices, working in shops or offices with long plastic hooks displayed prominently. What are the hooks for? To pull you off in the event that you are being electrocuted.
    Comparison: The software "engineer" is given a new computer with USB mouse and keyboard. Which means his MP3 player has to be plugged into a USB port on the back of the box.
    Conclusion: Despite this enormous stress on the poor software guy, the persistent risk of imminent, excruciating death causes us to conclude that the EE's life is just a tad more stressful.

    Chemical engineer
    As a general rule, ChemE's work in one of three fields. Stuff that blows up; stuff that is incredibly toxic; and stuff that will kill you in some other way. Sometimes (working with liquid hydrogen springs to mind) the stuff can kill you multiple ways.
    Comparison: The software "engineer" is stuck working for a dot-com startup that only offers two flavors of smoothies in the company cafeteria on Thursdays. And do you realize how painful a brain freeze from that smoothie can be?
    Conclusion:The ChemE trying to identify a "stable" mixture of phosphene and silane (if the explosion doesn't kill you, the nerve gas will) has just a bit more stress to deal with.

    Mechanical engineer
    These guys lead a cushy life--they sit in an office, working with CAD tools to create neat drawings. Which they give to machinists and other employees to actually build. Except--those "machinists and other employees" are dues-paying members of the United Auto Workers, the United Steelworkers, or the Machinists' Union. You have not known stress until you have had to explain to a Machinists Union shop steward that existing work patterns will have to change.
    Comparison: The software "engineer" has to deal with LAN admins in IS. Who may have read the BOFH files. And believed them.
    Conclusion: The MechE has more stress.

    My point:
    If you look at the course of labor history, technology has consistently been used to eliminate expense--almost always labor expense. And the labor that has been eliminated is typically dangerous, routinely debilitating, and generally a lot more "stressful" than any office job that might be created instead. Where you might make a point about stress is when technology is used to raise productivity (e.g. we give everybody a computer and expect them to type their own email; as a result we don't have secretaries for each middle manager any more, and most companies do not have a mail room staff). If we implement technology that saves 20% of a person's time, we then only need four people to do the work that five used to do. I submit that that change does not--per se--cause stress. If the company fires one of those five, saying that he wasn't needed because of the new technology, that would cause stress. I think that's stress caused by a whip-cracking employer, not stress induced by new technology.

  • by Neil Watson (60859) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:14PM (#8400288) Homepage
    Stress is a misnomer. Really we are taking about fear. If you are stressed with something, you are actually afraid of something. Now, target your fear and ask 'what am I afraid of?' Identify what you can do to eliminate that fear.

    With that in mind, has technology made us less fearful? I'm sure the average person is much more fearful. People fear change and the unknown. Personally, I find myself less fearful. However I can't say if that is due to technology or my own maturity (as you get older you suffer less stress).

  • by JavaLord (680960) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:21PM (#8400390) Journal
    I personally don't get stressed out at my job about my deadlines (I work as a programmer), I worry more about what I'll be doing if I ever want to move on from where I am. It used to be that a Degree in Computer Science is all you would need, but It really doesn't seem that way anymore. I worry more about what I'll be doing 10 years from now than I worry about what I have to do today.
  • by irikar (751706) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:56PM (#8400845)

    We are expected to deliver faster because in many cases technology improves by allowing us to do the same task faster and faster or in a more efficient manner (think of micro-waves, dish washers, GHz processors, High RPMs hard disks, etc.). In turn, it is supposed to give us more time. But what do we do, or rather what are we expected to do with that extra time?

    How come we are working over time when technology allows us today to print/write/code/format/spellcheck/indent/syntaxhi ghlight/etc. much faster than before?

    I have that awkward impression that I'm expected not only to be quicker, but to produce a lot more than before simply because my printer is faster, my cell phone sends me bigger SMS messages, my CPU is idle waiting for me, telling me that I'm too slow... The human brain's clock speed hasn't improved for a little while, but, mind you, I'm not up to date with the latest e-news on the subject...

    A human body is designed to sustain a high level of stress only for a short period of time. In a stressful situation, our blood pressure and adrenaline level rises, and we are ready to either fight or escape the source of stress. In many technology related work environments, workers undergo such a level of stress almost every day and, if not dealt with properly, can lead to the equivalent of a MechWarrior's thermal shutdown; your body says "Sorry boss, I know they're shootin' their lasers at ya, but I give up".

    I remember before online-banking I didn't mind waiting in line at the bank. Now, it is somehow less conceivable to wait for 15mn, when you can do the same transaction in 30 seconds from a web browser. Did that buy me 14:30 mn of free, relaxing time? Somehow, I'm not sure... Since I didn't spend 15mn meditating, relaxing, looking around, standing up, while waiting in line at the bank, I can instead continue my coding... In the long run, which alternative is more desirable for a human being?

    • Now, it is somehow less conceivable to wait for 15mn, when you can do the same transaction in 30 seconds from a web browser. Did that buy me 14:30 mn of free, relaxing time? Somehow, I'm not sure...

      I've previously thought about the issues you outlined above, and I've come to the conclusion that if there is something in my life which gives me back a certain amount of time, it is my responsibility to fill that time the way I see fit. If I don't do that, then the universe will fill it for me.

      Now, I may ha
  • Absolute Link (Score:3, Insightful)

    by esobofh (138133) <khg.telus@net> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:18PM (#8401108)
    Probably the biggest change with all this technology is how fast life is these days. They say that the speed of life/business and everything in general is 10 times what your parents, parents used to endure. The fact that people can reach me anytime, anywhere and so easily (i mean it takes time and effort to hand write a letter) means that more work comes my way, and it's a constant flow. I appreciate voicemail, that is, being able to sit back and review in my own time - but it's use seems a rarity in the days of cells, pagers and instant messaging. *sigh* the age of information? the age of overload (hello ADHD) more like.
  • No correlation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kardar (636122) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:22PM (#8401146)
    I don't think that there necessarily has to be a correlation between technology and stress. Not that there isn't, just like there may or may not be a correlation between stress and showing up to work on time. If you get your routine down, you will be on time. If you wake up in time, you won't be late.

    Stress is created by improper management of things. Manage your time improperly, and you will have stress. Manage your employees improperly, and you will have stress. Manage your technology improperly, or your projects improperly, and you will have stress.

    Stress is bad, and it kills. There are ways to overcome it, but you have to be willing to make sacrifices to get rid of stress, which might mean pushing back a deadline, or hiring more staff, or something along those lines. Office environment, ergonomics, working with co-workers who have a high level of skill; these are things that can reduce stress.

    Another thing that bothers me is how software, sometimes hardware manufacturers present you with "the latest" of whatever it is that they sell, and then describe to you how it will make your life easier, and why version (+1) of their product is better than the current version, and why you should shell out a couple hundred grand for it.

    I think that it is better to ask "Can this computer do this for me?", rather than allowing a representative try to talk you in to buying an expensive product. With the outsourcing phenomena that is going on, software products and software companies, in many people's minds, are always going to have a certain amount of financial and job-related stress accompany them.

    The concept of "environment" needs to be extended into the workspace, and into the human interactions that we have with each other day in and day out. So not only does industrial waste, improperly managed, pollute our rivers and lakes, but stress, improperly managed, pollutes our work environment. How much technology went into that top of the line ergonomic chair, that fancy expensive keyboard, or that articulating keyboard tray? Technology, by definition, can be very helpful; it can reduce stress and increase productivity. But reducing stress "costs money", money that many employers don't have, or aren't willing to spend. It is unfortunate. Technology is being used to do what: increase profits? save lives? make things easier for the consumer?. We have to intentionally go out and apply technology to stress reduction, and bingo!

    I don't think that there needs to be any correlation between technology and stress. I think that it is entirely possible to use technology and not be stressed out. Furthermore, if you do find a correlation between stress and technology, take your sample environments and remove the technology, and I bet you will still have stress.

    People create stress by not managing it in the first place. Technology magnifies things that already exist. The drive for wealth and profits creates stress; technology focused on creating more wealth and profits will do the same. The drive to make things easier for the consumer creates stress; technology focused on the making things easier for the consumer will do the same.

    The drive to reduce stress reduces stress; applying technology to the drive to reduce stress will do the same.

  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@geekazon . c om> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:35PM (#8401321) Homepage
    Because no matter how reliable technology is, anything can break. Complex technology tends to fail from obscure problems that ordinary people can't fix or even understand. Our ancestors dealt mostly with things they could see and understand. No matter how reliable your technology is, putting your confidence in a collection of black boxes that you have no idea how to fix is fundamentally different from having confidence in your own ability to cope with problems that you can see.
  • by FreshFunk510 (526493) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:35PM (#8401325)
    Here's a short little anecdote that I didn't learn about until recently.

    My cheapy workplace gave me a bad monitor with a not-so good video card. After several weeks of use I started getting massive headaches, dizziness, and general nausea. I thought maybe I was sick or I was working too hard. I thought maybe I was stressing out too much. I think I was stressing but it was because of all the ill feelings I was get due to the hardware.

    Eventualy I got so stressed my hair started falling out.. literally. I guess there's this condition where this can happen if you face times of continuous high stress (mind you I had these ill feelings everyday).

    I learned several things at the optometrist. 1) I was using my glasses wrong (needed for far viewing not close viewing.. ergo i was making my eyes work extra hard. 2) had low refresh freq monitor replaced with nice laptop monitor. 3) blinking and eye resting is very important. If you don't it's easy for your eyes to dry out because you're constantly staring at code. This can be more lethal than you think as dry eyes make it more difficult for you eyes to focus and this constant pressure can also lead to headaches/migranes as I've experienced.

    The thing that sucked about it was that I had no real idea what was going on. Back in college I had issues with a monitor that ran low refresh rate and that too gave me headaches. I thought I was just using the comptuer too much but I was using my glasses incorrectly then as well. Who knew?
  • Stress: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Qbertino (265505) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @07:32PM (#8402940)
    Stress == anxiety caused by the lack of consciousness about the where's, why's and how's of general impediments of everyday life.

    Given the definition above, which, imho, is quite percise, and the fact that we live in an age which is growing more and more complex in the material world I'd say yes, stress is more or less directly proportional to the 'amount' of tech around you.

    Quite fitting that I've spend half my day today trying to hush my PC a little more with a fanless powerunit and a fanless grafics cooler. A lot of stress is caused by noise that we aren't directly aware of.
  • by skozmedia (652753) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:18AM (#8405487)
    It's not just the fact that people cause stress regardless of technology, or that they are stupid. Technology creates stress through people by forcing them to rely on complicated things--things more complicated than they can understand. So when your boss screams at you for not having the server up, it's not because he only thinks he can't get by without it, he actually can't get by without it.

    That reliance on complex, unnatural mechanisms is a breeding ground for stress because, hey, complex, unnatural things are more prone to breaks. And unlike more physical things (say, compare a piece of paper to outlook), what you can expect to break changes with each version of the program, operating system, computer, and user.

    Complexity does cause stress. People are just doing the best they can. The technological enviornment people work in, however, causes them to appear stupid.

    And, of course, some people actually are just stupid.

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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