Checking emails after work damages your relationships, finds study

It’s time to down tools and switch off

Sarah Young
Monday 13 August 2018 15:48 BST
The best place for women to work is the Czech Republic
The best place for women to work is the Czech Republic

It’s a habit that many of us struggle to leave at work but, according to a new study, checking your emails after hours could have a seriously negative impact on not only your health but also your relationship with loved ones.

The study, conducted by Virginia Tech, surveyed the health of 297 university employees and found that all of them had varying levels of anxiety that could be damaging to their health.

However, very few of them failed to realise that their anxiety increased when the line between work and home life became blurred.

Investigating the impact of so-called “flexible work boundaries” the study suggests that something as small as checking your emails could turn into “work without boundaries” and bosses expecting staff to never really switch off.

Something which could not only cause stress and anxiety for the individual, but also for their partner and children who witness the person being unable to psychologically detach from work-related issues

“The competing demands of work and non-work lives present a dilemma for employees, which triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives," said co-author William Becker.

“Our research exposes the reality, [that] ‘flexible work boundaries’ often turn into ‘work without boundaries,’ compromising an employee's and their family's health and well-being.”

The first paper to identify the phenomenon, it suggests that employees don’t even have to engage in actual work for them to feel the effects of stress and anxiety, and that measures should be put in place to prevent people from feeling overwhelmed.

To tackle this, Becker says that employers should state if email availability is a requirement in job descriptions and, that if it is a requirement, out-of-hours windows should be introduced so people know they have periods of time when they don’t have to check their inbox.

Alternatively, he adds that mindfulness may help employees disengage from work and “be present” in family interactions, which could help reduce conflict and improve relationship satisfaction.

If you’re concerned that you’re checking your emails too much after work and it’s not part of your job description there are a few things you can do to help.

Firstly, you might want to consider removing the temptation to check by deleting access to work emails from your phone entirely.

Or, if that’s not an option, you could remove the push notifications from your phone so that you’re not notified every time you receive an email.

These findings come just weeks after a report by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) called for societal change in the way mental health is treated, alongside new rules for employers to treat stress and mental health risks as seriously as physical health and safety.

The report, which coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week, found that a third of people in Britain have experienced suicidal feelings and that three out of four have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope in the past year because of stress – a figure which rose to 81 per cent among women.

For confidential support with mental health or suicidal feelings, call Samaritans on 116 123.

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