Seminar One

How can psychological theory inform ‘healthy’ working practices?

Friday, 27 March 2015, 11:00 – 16:00.

Venue: Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA

Keynote: Professor Mark Griffiths, Nottingham Trent University. Expert on addiction in technology usage

For a more detailed programme, please read here.

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Speaker Summaries

Professor Mark Griffiths

Online behavioural excess and addiction: How much is too much?

Professor Griffiths, an international expert on behavioural addictions and pioneering researcher in the field of internet and gaming addictions was the keynote speaker for our first seminar series. Professor Griffiths presented his component model of addiction i.e., salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse (Griffiths, 1995) as the basis to conceptualise internet addiction. He also discussed diagnostic and prevalence figures, potential typologies and vulnerability factors. Professor Griffiths highlighted how prevalence rates differ as a consequence of different assessment tools and cut-offs, ranging from 0.8% to 26.7% , including his British study with rather low figures, e.g., 3.2% (Kuss, Griffiths, & Binder, 2013). Professor Griffiths identified several factors that could explain vulnerability especially in teenagers including low self-control and impulsivity; as well as combination of habits such as online gaming with personality factors such as openness to experience, high neuroticism and a high degree of social networking. He also discussed some of the main correlates that emerged from the literature, including time spent online (positive relationship) and age (negative relationship). In terms of diagnosing online addiction, Professor Griffiths advised that despite medical debates to include internet addiction in the appendix of emerging measures of the DSMV, evidence at that point was not strong enough and only the gaming subtype had been included. More than two decades of experience in this field led Professor Griffiths to conclude that most internet addictions are specific i.e. gaming online rather than generalized, although he acknowledged that some individuals could indeed be addicted to activities that do not exist outside the virtual reality. He said that actual ‘addiction’ was quite rare and that many people would benefit from education to reduce their internet habits as they can become habitual.

Contact: mark.griffiths@ntu.ac.uk


Dr Cristina Quinones

Compulsive internet use in working age population: Exploring prevalence figures, vulnerability factors and potential links with compulsive working

Dr Quinones presented three of her studies of compulsive internet use in adult population. In the first part of her presentation, she discussed conceptualization and operationalization issues and presented prevalence figures with large samples in UK, US and UAE (N > 1200).
Following from the debates about cut-off points introduced by Professor Griffiths, Dr Quinones also added that there are disagreements in the scientific community as to whether the term “addiction” was appropriate resulting in the emergence of different terms with different measurement tools (e.g., pathological internet use, compulsive internet use), and that this has further impeded the reliable estimation of prevalence figures. Dr Quinones also reported that upon close inspection of the most applied tools, the items were very similar and tapped into the conceptual model put forward by Professor Griffiths in the mid 90’s. Dr Quinones illustrated some of the current debates in relation to ‘healthy’ but high engagement as opposed to truly problematic behaviour. Building on the conceptual distinction found in the literature between high engagement without negative consequences (which are high use, use to experience a buzz) and core negative consequences of the behaviour, such as withdrawal, loss of control and conflict. Dr Quinones found prevalence figures which were up to 12% lower when considering only the latter. This and the fact that the country with highest compulsive internet use also reported a lower amount of usage hours, suggested that that prevalence figures in the literature are likely to be inflated by including ‘healthy’ but high engagement.
In the second paper, Dr Quinones presented her findings regarding testing how low social support and low self-concept clarity (an antecedent of social anxiety) could be explaining adults’ vulnerability to develop a maladaptive relationship with the internet. Finally, Dr Quinones presented her preliminary findings of a longitudinal study of compulsive internet use and discussed how current work practices could be reinforcing and exacerbating maladaptive relationships with the internet for individuals with underlying vulnerability. She also mentioned that she is currently studying these and related issues with time series studies, and that she is interested in the intervention opportunities deriving from this work.

Contact: Cristina.Quinones@open.ac.uk


Dr Anna Cox

Working 9 to 5? Email Practices and Work-Home Boundary Management

Dr Anna Cox presented a series of three studies focussing on technology, boundaries and email usage. The first study was a survey of 260 participants that explored technology use and boundary styles (Kossek, 2012 model). Dr Cox found that most people had 2/3 devices and that people differed in the extent to which they use their devices to integrate or separate work and non-work. The second study consisted of a series of interviews about email practices. Participants also completed Kossek’s boundary styles questionnaire. The findings demonstrated that people had very specific strategies for managing emails, for example they would not have access to work email on their work phones. Dr Cox also found that when she examined academic/professional services staff in her survey that academics tended to integrate more, whilst professional staff separated. This led to consideration that academics may have a more ‘permeable’ boundary style and distributed work across time perhaps with some rules within their integration. The final study used questionnaires to explore the role of smartphone usage in handling emails and its relation to feelings of overload. The results showed that those who use smartphones for work e-mail experienced lower levels of overload, but not coping. The lack of correlation between coping or overload and e-mail use suggests that lower overload is not due to the ability to processes or read more e-mails outside of work. In conclusion, this work highlights the importance of tailoring solutions to the individual, rather than creating a one-size-fits-all solution, and also suggests that for some there may be benefits to staying connected rather than having a digital detox.

Contact: anna.cox@ucl.ac.uk


Dr Christine Grant

Competencies for the resilient e-worker?

Dr Grant presented a wide scale study of e-workers and the impact of remote technology on work-life balance, job effectiveness and well-being. She defined remote e-working used for her studies as ‘those who work using technology both remotely and/or out of hours’. The first presented study was a series of interviews with ‘exemplar’ e-workers (i.e., those who had been e-working for more than five years). Three sectors took part in the interviews. Key themes emerged including: work-life integration, role conflict, management style, communication and trust.

These themes were then used to design a survey that included a scale to measure ‘e-work life’. The survey sample included over 250 participants across 11 different organisations, and three sectors covering a range of demographics including different age groups, relationship types and job roles. Findings indicated that there are both positive and negative aspects to e-working: e-working improves flexibility to work differing hours and productivity; however, e-working can also reduce the amount of time to fully recuperate and detach from work; a finding shared with Dr Cox’s research.

The e-work-life scale was validated in this survey and tested for internal reliability. The scale can be accessed on Dr Grant’s website: https://ework.coventry.ac.uk/. On this website there is currently a free test including a personalised automated report is available (click on the top tab “register”). This research has also provided a series of potential key competencies for e-workers including a typology for the “developed” and “undeveloped” e-worker that is to inform training and education programmes. Dr Grant works directly with organisations and is currently researching the “resilient e-worker” and exploring how e-workers can best manage their increasingly ‘blended’ lives.

Contact: christine.grant@coventry.ac.uk


Funded by a Research Seminar Competition Grant from The British Psychological Society.