NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Researchers now have the science proving what many already knew: Being “always on” for a job and constantly checking work email to stay on top of your job hurts not just the worker’s health and happiness, but also family members.
William Becker, a Virginia Tech associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business, co-wrote a paper showing non-stop work expectations cause anxiety, harmful effects on employees’ health, and the health of their families.
Previous research has shown habits “such as when someone brings work home to finish up” put strain and conflict on family relationships, but Becker’s work showed that just the stress of the expectation of working in off-hours does significant harm. Another study showed the same stress coming always staying tuned in to excessive social media.
“The competing demands of work and nonwork lives present a dilemma for employees,” Becker said, “which triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives.”
This latest study describes the promise of more open employee hours as a sort of trap that backfires over time.
“The insidious impact of ‘always on’ organizational culture is often unaccounted for or disguised as a benefit — increased convenience, for example, or higher autonomy and control over work-life boundaries,” he said. “Our research exposes the reality: ‘flexible work boundaries’ often turn into ‘work without boundaries,’ compromising an employee’s and their family’s health and well-being.”
Becker encouraged employees to adopt policies that reduced expectations about monitoring electronic communications outside work, or failing that, set limits on which off-hours should be allowed for work-related responses may be expected.
“If the nature of a job requires email availability, such expectations should be stated formally as a part of job responsibilities,” said Becker.
Psychotherapist Bill Solz founded Stress Solutions of New York. He says work comes with its own pressures and bringing them home doesn’t allow your brain to shutdown.
“Because we are checking in on our emails, we’re not fully, effectively leaving the workplace,” he said. “The stress and anxiety that individuals feel also get transmitted to significant others.”
He advises employees to stay at work a little later to get things done and, if they must, only check work emails one time outside the office — but not before going to bed.
“We’re all connected to our phones. But if we want to be better connected to our mental health, leave those emails in the workplace,” he said.
Recently, a New York City Councilman drafted a bill called The Right To Disconnect. If passed, it would make it illegal for employers to send work-related emails outside the regular work schedule.