Over a quarter (28%) of UK workers are so afraid of left behind by workplace technology that they have been put off having children, a new report claims.
The Returnship Report by CWJobs investigated challenges facing businesses when employees return to work after a prolonged absence, such as maternity or paternity leave.
The findings indicate that while technology is undeniably helpful people’s work lives, it also contributes to stress, anxiety and even family planning rethinks, as workers worry about “tech-lag trauma” – being “left behind” while tech continually evolved in their absence.
The human cost of tech-lag trauma
The report looked at 2,000 workers who took a leave from work lasting over three months within the last 10 years. Of those who returned to work, nearly half (45%) reported that their workplace technology had either changed or was totally overhauled – creating a plethora of emotionally charged issues for UK workers.
Two in five workers confessed to feeling “left behind” when they returned to work, over half (57%) said returning from leave felt like it was their first day again, and over a third (36%) struggled to operate the new technology that had arrived in their absence.
The impact of tech-lag trauma is so severe that it is taking a serious toll on the UK workforce’s mental health, productivity and even desire to have children. Nearly two in five (38%) Brits said their return to work was so stressful they felt nervous or anxious when contemplating taking another break, while for 28% the returning experience was so negative it put them off parenthood.
The business cost
The rapidly evolving technology within the workplace doesn’t just wreak havoc with emotions but the nation’s productivity too. On average, it took UK workers the best part of a month – 4.4 weeks – to feel like they had recaptured their pre-absence productivity, with technological advances one of the most prominent obstacles to overcome.
A third said it took between one and six months to become fully accustomed to new technology that had been introduced while they were away, and a further 38% admitted to struggling with everyday processes and other day-to-day jobs that had been altered by the introduction of new technology.
Reducing the impact
Given the human and business costs associated with tech-lag trauma, there is a clear need for businesses to take steps to ensure the “return to work period” is more seamless for their employees.
Unfortunately, the appetite for extra support to help employees return to work seems to be significantly outweighed by the availability of such support. Nearly four in five (79%) Brits said they required tech training on returning to work, but despite this, only 31% received full training. A fifth did not receive any at all. As a result, over a third (38%) felt left behind by their employer or did not have the support they required to get back up to speed.
Meanwhile, “returnships” – a high-level internship acting as a bridge back to work for more senior roles – has only been heard of by 21% of respondents. When explained, well over half (57%) stated they would have benefited from such a programme.
Belinda Parmar, OBE, CEO of The Empathy Business and the former founder of Lady Geek, said: “The [report] is much-needed as it highlights how challenging returning to work can be for so many of us – this is not acceptable.
“We spend more than 50 years of our lives at work – that is more time than we spend with our families. We need companies to create programmes that help people return seamlessly into the workplace and feel that they belong again.
“I remember when I came back to work, I felt lost. I had moved on in terms of my life experiences but felt that the workplace had moved on without me. We need to close the gap and the current ‘keeping in touch days’ are a good idea but these days are often small in number and little effort is put into addressing the skills gap. We need more empathetic interventions and a much bigger focus on this if we want to create the workplace of the future.”