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Tech Stress: How Overcoming It Can Lead to Better Volunteer Program Outcomes

Technology is moving faster than the speed of light—well, it can certainly feel this way.

The fact is, technology is part of our everyday lives. In some ways, it makes our daily routines and our jobs easier. But at the same time, the idea of introducing new technology, especially in the workplace, can induce feelings of stress for many. 

There’s no shame in feeling anxious about the idea of introducing new technology to your volunteer program. 

So, whether you’re nervous about tech, or you want to help your tech-stressed volunteers, we’re here for you! 

Use these tips to transform tech fear into tech confidence

What Is Tech Stress? 

A person might experience tech stress (also called “tech anxiety”) if the idea of learning or using new technology, such as software or smartphone apps, induces feelings of worry or dread.

The important thing to know is that if you fear technology or worry that you can’t learn a new tech skill, you’re not alone. In fact, most of us have felt this way at some point! 

Common Types of Tech Stress

Why do we get stressed about tech anyway? 

There are lots of reasons tech makes us anxious or frustrated. These are just some of the common types of stressors that you or your volunteers might experience: 

The Stress of Keeping Up

Learning new technology in the workplace can be especially uncomfortable for some. We want to do our jobs well and demonstrate that we’re competent in our roles. 

So, just the idea of changing the way we work can make us feel like we’re losing control. 

Plus, today’s community organizations are under even more pressure to meet performance indicators and compete for supporters’ attention. 

“Keeping up” for nonprofits and businesses alike usually means becoming more efficient. Technology is great for boosting efficiency. But it can also feel like we’re always having to upgrade to the newest, best computer program or smartphone app just to stay afloat. 

Plus, it can seem like the younger generations adapt to new technology with ease, causing a host of (maybe not-so-friendly) thoughts in their older counterparts. 

Hey, we get it—all this change can feel like uncharted territory!

Tech Overload

Before the internet and smartphones, it was a lot easier to leave work at the office. Today, it can feel nearly impossible to get away from our work emails, social media accounts, and around-the-clock crises. And because you’re working to make your community a better place, logging out can feel especially challenging. 

When we struggle to power down and step away from work, we’re more likely to experience burnout, which can affect our overall health, work performance, and personal relationships.

Training Stress 

New technology usually takes time to learn. Some people worry that they don’t have enough time to learn a new system, and others fear they simply won’t be able to understand it. Have you found that some of your regular volunteers resist learning your new registration system? They might just be nervous about learning something new!

The Good Kind of Stress 

Stress is complicated. In fact, not all stress is inherently bad. Top athletes put their bodies under immense stress to perform at the highest level. And there’s a reason the most seasoned Broadway stars feel stage fright before every performance. 

Stress can help humans prepare their bodies and minds to overcome incredible feats. So if you’re feeling a little afraid, know that it may be your body’s way of telling you that you care about your work—you may be more prepared to take on a new challenge than you think. 

Am I Stressed About Tech? 

Anyone can feel a range of feelings about technology at any time. Sometimes, new tech feels like a minor inconvenience (“Ugh! My new smart TV has so many unnecessary features.”). Other times, tech fear leads to debilitating anxiety (“I am terrified that AI is going to become sentient and take over the world.”). 

We should mention that we’re not mental health experts. If you think technology is affecting your mental health, seek expert help. 

For those who fall somewhere in the range of tech-uncomfortable to tech-resistant, know that there are simple steps you can take to get comfortable using tech! 

But first, you probably need to evaluate your own feelings about tech. Think about whether any of these statements ring true for you:

  1. I avoid new technology because I worry it won't do what I need.
  2. I worry that learning new technology will be too complicated or time-consuming to use.
  3. I worry that I won’t be able to learn new technology, so I avoid it. 
  4. I’m frustrated or anxious about society’s apparent dependence on smartphones or computers.
  5. Entering my personal information, like credit card numbers, into websites makes me feel anxious or suspicious. 
  6. I am willing to consider new technology to make my day-to-day easier, but I’m not sure what’s out there.
  7. I tried researching new technology options, but there are just too many options out there. Now I feel overwhelmed. 
  8. I believe that technology could make my job easier, but I’m apprehensive. What’s wrong with doing things the way we always have, anyway? 

If you agree with any of these statements, you may be a little stressed about tech. 

It can be tricky to admit that tech stress is holding you or your program back. The good news is, there is a way to move your volunteer program forward with technology without hating it!

How to Overcome Tech Stress: Tips for Volunteer Leaders

These days, there’s some pretty amazing technology out there designed specifically for volunteer programs. But tech stress can hold you and your program back from the kind of growth that leads to a greater impact in your community

Feel confident with new technology with these approachable how-tos for volunteer leaders and their volunteers:

Be Honest About Your Concerns

Admitting that you’re worried about introducing new technology can be tough. But acknowledging tech stress can help you overcome it and move your volunteer program forward. 

Be honest with yourself—and with members of your team that you trust—about your concerns. There’s a good chance that others might be feeling the same way. You’ll be able to work through tech stress together and find solutions that can work for you. 

Find the Balance

Finding the balance—seems like the secret to a happy life, right? Most of us know we need balance in our lives. But actually finding it is the hard part. 

Technology (both at home and in the workplace) is no different. 

A large part of finding the ideal tech balance is weighing the benefits and drawbacks of new technology. So, when it comes to evaluating your next tech purchase, the benefits need to outweigh the initial stress you might feel. 

Evaluate the tools that you’re already using in your volunteer management practice. Be honest with yourself and think about these questions:

  • Do I know your current volunteer management tools are holding me back, but I’m worried about completely changing the way you manage volunteers? 
  • Will new technology make my job easier or save me time in the long run? 
  • Can new technology benefit others? 

In some cases, finding the right balance can mean understanding that feeling uncomfortable now will benefit your volunteer and your program in the long run. 

Do Your Research

Sometimes learning more about a tool or technology can actually ease our minds. Through research, we get a clearer sense of what the technology does and how it can benefit your work. 

You may just find some pretty amazing tools that can revolutionize the way you manage volunteers

Not sure where to start?

We’ve compiled resources about technology specifically for volunteer leaders. Or, dig into more information about technology designed for managing volunteers

Involve Your Community

Ease some of the stress of finding and implementing new technology by making it a team effort. If you’re thinking about incorporating technology into your organization, you don’t want to make this decision in a vacuum. 

Get your team together to understand what their needs and concerns are. Involve your board and your director, and work cross-departmentally to ensure that your tools and processes make sense for your organization as a whole. 

Looking for new tools to improve the volunteer experience?

Gather a volunteer focus group and ask them to share their experiences, concerns, and needs. Volunteer surveys are another great way to gather feedback about ways you can improve the volunteer experience. 

Remember, the takeaway here is that you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to go it alone. 

Ask for Help

Know that it's okay to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to think about the resources available to you. Tech-savvy interns and volunteers are great resources to help you get your program started with new technology. 

And don’t be afraid to reach out to your tech provider’s customer support for help. Especially if you’re not quite a tech expert, you’ll want to look for providers with friendly, helpful customer service. They should listen to your concerns, answer questions in a timely manner, and put together a training plan to help you feel comfortable. 

Set Boundaries

Maybe it’s leaving your work laptop at the office, or perhaps you’ll dedicate an hour of your work day to greeting volunteers face-to-face. Whatever these boundaries look like, it’s important to set and communicate them to your coworkers and volunteers. 

Know that you’re not selfish for taking time for yourself. You might be sick of hearing the old adage, “you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.” But there’s a reason it’s so popular. 

Knowing when to switch off will not only improve your work performance, it’s essential for your health. 

Helping Your Volunteers Overcome Tech Fear

You want to implement a new way to engage volunteers, but you're worried that your volunteers will be resistant to change (they'd much rather pick up the phone to schedule their next shift).

Your volunteers might just be experiencing tech stress! 

It's important to get as many volunteers on board with your technology as possible so that you can grow your program. But some of your volunteers may need a little more tech (and emotional) support than others. 

Make Learning Fun

Every new piece of technology will require some learning. As a volunteer leader, it's your job to do the teaching to maximize engagement.

One of the best ways to get your regular volunteers on board with any change in the way you do things is to make learning fun.

Host an in-person training session on your new website or scheduling system. Make it fun with food and beverages and group activities.

For volunteers who may be a bit more anxious to learn something new in public, record a video tour of your new technology. This way,  volunteers can learn in their own time. 

Consider adding some incentive by offering a reward to the first 20 volunteers who log their hours with your new system. 

Create a Transition Plan

If you're thinking about introducing a new website or volunteer tool, you may want to ease the transition a bit.

Having a plan will help ease your volunteers into the new system. Here are some steps you can take to transition your volunteers from your old tools to the new:

  • Give your volunteers a heads-up. You won't want to reveal your new website or scheduling tool without warning. Instead, send an email with an "exciting announcement" and give a specific date for going live. 
  • Be responsive. Invite volunteers to share their questions and concerns. Devote extra time to respond to volunteers' questions during the transition period. 
  • Create access. Some of your volunteers may not have access to reliable internet or computers, which can cause additional stress! Find ways to create access by providing a volunteer computer station at your organization. Or, work with a local librarian who may be willing to help volunteers access your new website. 
  • Designate volunteer leaders. Create leadership opportunities for your tech-savvy volunteers. Invite them to assist other less comfortable supporters and be on hand to answer questions. When tech-nervous volunteers see their peers using your new tools, they're more likely to get on board. 

Be Patient

A little patience and you’re well on your way to helping your supporters feel comfortable.

Sometimes, our first response to resistance is frustration. Take a moment and a deep breath and remember a time when you were learning something new. What support did you need in that moment? 

Practicing compassion will help ease everyone's stress (including your own!). 

Generate Enthusiasm

Create a buzz around your new technology. Let them know specifically how your updates will benefit the community and your volunteers specifically.

Put it all in writing by creating an email campaign that informs volunteers of new, exciting changes!

This email template will help you generate enthusiasm, introduce your new technology, and communicate the benefits to your volunteers:

Hi, [Recipient Name]!

We have some exciting news to share with you, on behalf of all of us at [Organization Name]! We are thrilled to announce the launch of our new volunteer website! You can now sign up for volunteer opportunities at [Connect site URL].

Our goal for this new website is to provide our incredible community with a fresh, modern experience that makes it easy to find volunteer opportunities that match your unique skills and interests. You can also record and track your impact so you can see just how quickly your contributions to [Organization Name] add up!

We regularly update our website with new volunteer opportunities, events, announcements, photos, and community partners. 

Need a tour of our new volunteer website? Drop in on one of our in-person training sessions, listed here. Or, check out this video tour. 

Get involved, and let me know what you think. I think you’re going to love it!

All the best,

[Your Name, Organization]

How to Introduce Software to Your Volunteer Program

Too much tech is just that: too much. Many community organizations start out by introducing a free volunteer sign-up sheet here and a communications tool there. 

Lots of disparate tools and technologies can become confusing for you and your volunteers. 

Instead, look for one system that does more. Think fewer log-ins to remember, less time training, and more time getting things done.

Sound too good to be true? 

We promise it’s not! 

Volunteer management software is an all-in-one tech solution for managing all phases of the volunteer lifecycle. 

However, investing in one do-it-all tool can be a bit scary for some organizations. In fact, these are the most common concerns we see when it comes to investing in new volunteer management technology:

  • Volunteer management software is out of budget for your organization
  • Your volunteers won't use your volunteer management software
  • You won’t be able to get your team on board with the new system
  • There are so many features! Do we really need all of these?

Have no fear! We’re well-versed in addressing tech concerns and have created lots of resources to help everyone involved feel comfortable:

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