cover photo Reflect Blog
Ingo Kallenbach

Generation Y: "Digital Natives" or digitally naive?

Generation Y is somehow completely different. Their "members" are called "digital natives" and pursue values such as self-realization, freedom for the private sphere and networking. The management levels and HR managers are developing new working time models in order to use Generation Y with flexible working hours and individual freedoms in "permanent beta" as effectively as possible and thereby ensure recovery and regeneration, but also creativity.

IT systems make it possible that career, family and hobbies are not neglected. And it is Generation Y in particular - as the age group that is taking on more and more responsibility - that is driving digitalisation forward. This is their area of expertise.

This is why it is all the more surprising that a representative study by the University of Augsburg and the Fraunhofer Project Group for Business Informatics found out that Gen Y was the most stressed out by digitization at the workplace.

What are possible reasons for this and how can this "digital fatigue" be avoided?

What is digital fatigue?

While mobile phones were originally designed for on-the-go calling, a Deloitte survey (2016) found that one-third of smartphone users no longer make traditional voice calls at all.

Instead, our phones are used as mobile computers to read email, shop online, access news, download music and videos, use social media, order food, watch cards... the list could go on forever.

We literally always have the Internet in our pockets and can seemingly find the answer to every question at the touch of a button. The constant beeping, vibrating, and flashing of alerts leads us to be constantly distracted and driven to interrupt what we do to check our phones.

But while these advances in technological functionality and accessibility are amazing - they have a price: digital fatigue.

Digital fatigue is the result of overloading human cognition with digital information and impressions. These can trigger symptoms such as stress, rapid fatigue, lack of concentration and irritability in affected individuals, negatively impacting human well-being due to the enormous nervous system overload.




Why is "digital stress" occurring? No work-life balance

One of the reasons for the stress of digitisation in the workplace is what Gen Y is always demanding: the pursuit of work-life balance.

While in the past there was often a clear dividing line between the end of working hours and the beginning of private life, today this area is more than grey. Most of us have our business emails on our mobile phones, so we are always available. This makes it harder than ever to ever really get away from work and relax.

"Fear of Missing out (FOMO)"

The fear of missing something is essentially based on the social fear of missing something. What is potentially missed is wide-ranging: an event, a job, a social event, current news or connections to other people.

We want to be connected - just in case. To test this, simply ask your friends and family if they have ever considered quitting social media. The majority will probably opt for a "no".

Lack of competence

It is not only the degree of digitisation of the workplace that determines the level of digital stress, but also the imbalance between the skills in dealing with digital technologies on the one hand and the demands they place on employees on the other. Interestingly, this is precisely what affects Gen Y the most.

How can we prevent "digital stress"? Our 5 recommendations:

In order to avoid digital exhaustion, some aspects are particularly important:

Digital Leadership - Companies urgently need to train the digital skills of their executives so that they in turn can provide their employees with a productive atmosphere for the digital demands of their workplace.

Fixed rules - Tell your colleagues that you can no longer be reached after a certain amount of time, turn off your phone and computer, and take time every night to relax.
If it is necessary (or you want) to read your messages outside working hours, at least try to read them less often, and consciously take your time when your phone is off.

"Face time - Have important face-to-face conversations. Since many of us have become accustomed to relying on technology rather than meeting in person, more time for immediate conversations will also help strengthen your relationships.

Control - Try to stick to what you find useful and don't feel under pressure to keep up with the trends.
Due to the flood of information, it is simply not possible to always know everything or know everything. Reflect on your attitudes and beliefs about "always on" mentality and develop an attitude that enables self-determined living instead of being "driven".

15-minute concentration - A practical exercise that works well at any workplace to strengthen your ability to concentrate:
You create a manageable fixed place of work, choose a fixed time and decide for 15 minutes to complete a single task (e.g. filing, answering e-mails) or several similar tasks (sorting receipts, writing invoices, preparing telephone calls, etc.) consistently and without any distractions.
All shooting in and distracting thoughts are noticed, but not implemented.


Digital fatigue is a big issue. According to studies (Henner, Gimpel et al., 2018), the generation Y in particular seems to be overtaxed. The main remedy can be to focus on digital competence in organisations in order to enable a healthy organisation in the age of digitalisation, which no one will be able to avoid.

If you would like to learn more about the "healthy organisation", digitisation or our workshops, then you are welcome to inform yourself about our services in this area or simply contact us.




Henner, Gimpel et al. (2018). Digital stress in Germany. A survey of the working population on the stress and strain caused by working with digital technologies. Hans Böckler Foundation. Düsseldorf