Design of an ICT-Supported Intervention for Occupational Stress Management : Case of Sri Lankan Software Employees

Abstract: Rapid technological advancements have paved the way for better support for human health and well-being, and ICT-supported occupational stress management is one such growing area. However, this field lacks studies that can provide pragmatic solutions for occupational stress management through the design of artefacts for specific occupational groups, especially in developing countries. Previous studies of ICT-supported interventions for occupational stress management have shown low engagement and adherence, which have reduced their potential benefits. The aim of this thesis is therefore to conceptualise, design and evaluate an ICT-supported intervention for occupational stress management that can support user engagement and adherence among Sri Lankan software employees. The software industry in Sri Lanka is a fast-growing sector that is prone to producing stressed employees due to the demanding nature of the work.Design science research methodology was used as a guide for the research activities in this study. The thesis consists of eight interrelated studies in which a diversified range of research strategies were applied. Data were captured from three stakeholder categories: software employees, human resource managers in Colombo-based software companies, and stress experts from private, non-governmental and governmental organisations. The data collection methods used in the studies varied, and included literature reviews, questionnaires, interviews, and focus group discussions. Inductive thematic analysis was applied to analyse the qualitative data, and descriptive statistics were used for the quantitative data.Based on these studies, the proposed artefact was conceptualised as a self-help intervention that could be used with little guidance to promote health and well-being. The artefact incorporates multiple functional modules that provide both a ‘personal space’ and a ‘collaborative space’. The personal space provides users with resources and tools to manage stress independently, whereas the collaborative space provides avenues for seeking social support, and allows for interactions between peers and experts. To support engagement and adherence, the intervention was designed to be enjoyable, easy to use and responsive to the user’s needs. An evaluation of a prototype with the three stakeholders indicated that the intervention has the potential to be useful in practice. This thesis contributes to existing knowledge in the empirical domain through the instantiation of a viable design prototype for managing occupational stress among software employees in Sri Lanka. It also advances the current knowledge of design science research practice in regard to ICT-supported interventions. This knowledge can be applied to the design of similar ICT-supported interventions to promote human health and well-being.