Addicted to Technology: The Responsibility Employers May Bear

Dennis Faas's picture

Imagine this scenario: You're the boss, and the people that work for you are required to use technology -- computers, cell phones, basically anything that keeps them "connected." Sounds normal enough, doesn't it? After all, that could describe any number of jobs.

Now picture this: over time, one of your employees eventually becomes a little too dependent on the tools of the trade you've deemed necessary. A good work ethic turns into a dangerous addiction. Believe it or not, it happens. ;-)

You're not responsible, right? Well, if a recent study by Rutgers University gains any traction, you might indeed be held legally liable for creating a workplace that encourages an addiction to technology. (Source:

"Information and communication technology (ICT) addiction has been treated by policy makers as a kind of elephant in the room," explains Gayle Porter, an associate professor of management at the Rutgers University School of Business (Camden). "Everyone sees it, but no one wants to acknowledge it directly."

According to the study, the seriousness of technology addiction cannot be underestimated: "Employers rightfully provide programs to help workers with chemical or substance addictions," Porter points out. "Addiction to technology can be equally damaging to the mental health of the worker."

When does the responsibility shift from the employee to the employer? "If people work longer hours for personal enrichment, they assume the risk," claims Porter. "However, if an employer manipulates an individual's propensity toward workaholism or technology addiction for the employer's benefit, the legal perspective shifts. When professional advancement (or even survival) seems to depend on 24/7 connectivity, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between choice and manipulation."

There currently aren't any lawsuits on record for tech addiction -- but with the advent of this study, that could change. (Source:

If such a case does end up in court, a number of factors would have to be taken into consideration before any legal precedents could be set -- including the addict's emotional state and the employer's role in either encouraging or discouraging addictive behavior. (Source:

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to call my lawyer. (Just kidding, Dennis!)

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