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HR must be aware of the ‘dark side’ of IT, says academic

HR must be aware of the “dark side” of technology and work with business and IT leaders to address it, according to Lancaster University Management School professor of information systems Monideepa Tarafdar.

Tarafdar, who has carried out extensive research into how the overuse of technology negatively impacts on employee and organisational wellbeing, told HR magazine that IT was decreasing productivity and innovation in many organisations, despite people often perceiving the opposite.

She cited four major IT-related risks facing organisations: “techno stress”, information overload, misuse of IT and IT addiction. She added that the trend for processing “immediately available information” was damaging employee creativity.

“The dark side of IT is something we need to do something about,” she said. “HR people should care about IT, and so should senior leaders. When it impacts on motivation, productivity and health, it’s an HR problem.”

Tarafdar advised HR leaders to conduct an audit of their organisation to identify what IT-related issues are present. She also said HR should consider monitoring employee use of technology as it relates to wellbeing.

She added that HR and IT needed to work “in tandem” as while IT professionals can implement technical solutions like turning off emails out of hours, HR has expertise in addressing cultural issues.

“The technical people can block the email, but HR sets the tone and the expectation,” she said. “There is a case for HR to step in and [tell IT] they will help frame policies accordingly.”

HR professionals should monitor any issues, work with IT to produce guidance of the warning signs and raise awareness among employees, she added.

However, she also warned HRDs not to roll out a “one size fits all” policy as people interact with technology in different ways. “Develop a healthy understanding of IT use and people being different,” she advised. “Design and implement employee development programmes that encourage responsible use of IT.”

Tarafdar said she believed HR professionals had “the longest way to travel” when it came to understanding the negative impacts of technology on the workforce. “HR people are the ones who are the most behind,” she said. “[This issue] is not on their radar.