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Is Technology Killing Your Work Motivation?

A new review gives insights on why it does and what we can do about it.

Key points

  • Technologies can worsen your work motivation.
  • Psychology expertise should be used when designing and implementing technologies in work environments.
  • Motivation that stems from meaning and enjoyment will be increasingly important in the future of work.
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Remote Control Center.
Source: Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

Have you ever conducted a job interview through video?

Do you work remotely and mostly communicate with your colleagues through technologies like Microsoft Teams or Slack?

Is your performance monitored by technologies? For example, are your work behaviors monitored through your computer’s camera, mouse, and keyboard usage, or even through GPS or a smartwatch?

Technologies are rapidly changing how, when, and where we work. But what impact do they have on our work motivation? We recently reviewed the emerging research done to answer this question and unfortunately, the news is not so good.

For the most part, technologies have worsened the satisfaction of our psychological needs when we work. It makes us feel less competent, sometimes because the pace of work is increased significantly, and sometimes because technologies decrease some of our skills because we use them less. They are also robbing us of our feelings of control and freedom because they monitor us and tell us what and how to do our work; sometimes they also pressure us to work faster. And they are decreasing our chances to create meaningful relationships with colleagues, as well as with our clients or other beneficiaries of our work. This is why our motivation is getting worse.

To fix and avoid these issues in the future, we have concluded from this review that we need to advocate for the use of psychological knowledge when designing and implementing technologies to be used in work environments. Psychologists are well equipped to advise how to design and use technologies in ways that will maintain or even improve the design of our work.

Work is considered to be well-designed when it provides us a chance to use skills, offers some task variety, gives us some decision-making power, provides us with performance feedback, and allows us to connect with colleagues or with beneficiaries not only to increase relatedness but also to see the impact our work has on stakeholders. Good work design makes our work more meaningful.

Why is this important? Because work motivation that stems from meaning and enjoyment will be increasingly important in the future of work. Indeed, as work environments and career trajectories become more dynamic and uncertain, we need workers to be more proactive and flexible. And motivation through meaning and enjoyment makes people more proactive and flexible.

So, when you hear your employer wants to introduce new technologies in your workplace, ask them if they have used the service of psychology experts when designing and planning the implementation of these new technologies. It will ensure your work keeps being designed in a way that will make it meaningful and enjoyable.

References

Gagné, M., Parker, S.K., Griffin, M.A. et al. (2022). Understanding and shaping the future of work with self-determination theory. Nature Reviews in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1038/s44159-022-00056-w

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