Employers Face Liability for Workers' High-Tech Addiction

Technology keeps workers connected 24/7. If that sounds like an employer's dream come true, think again. According to this Insurance Journal article discussing a forthcoming Rutgers University study, employers who encourage non-stop work connections via technology may wind up with liability for encouraging addiction among their staff.

According to the researchers cited in the article, the fast and relentless pace of technology-enhanced work environments creates a source of stimulation that may become addictive. While workaholism has always been around this study suggests that employers may face legal liability for these addictions.

"There are costs attached to excessive work due to technology," says [the researcher]. "Information and communication technology (ICT) addiction has been treated by policy makers as a kind of elephant in the room -- everyone sees it, but no one wants to acknowledge it directly. Owing to vested interests of the employers and the ICT industry, signs of possible addiction -- excess use of ICT and related stress illnesses -- are often ignored."

The results can be devastating for both the individual worker and the entire employing organization. "Employers rightfully provide programs to help workers with chemical or substance addictions," he notes. "Addiction to technology can be equally damaging to the mental health of the worker." ***"It may be unfeasible to regulate how much people use technology," [continued the researcher]. "However, it is reasonable to imagine a time when policy makers recognize the powerful influence of employers that sometimes results in harmful excess among the workforce. The pressure for using technology to stay connected 24/7 may carry employer responsibility for detrimental outcomes to the employees."
"Absurd!" I declared, as I wrote this blog entry from my home computer after 9 p.m. on a Sunday. Hmmmm.