The Pressure Of Answering Work Emails At Night Takes Toll On Mental Health, Study Finds

Source |Alice G. Walton |

The irony of technology isn’t lost on many. It frees us in lots of ways, but also it tethers us, ironically, in perhaps even more. We can work from home or from the park, but this also means that it’s much harder to turn off at a given hour. A new study from Virginia Tech looks at how just the expectation of having to answer work emails during non-work hours is linked to anxiety and poorer health, and can even affect the quality of our relationships.

The authors specifically wanted to look at what they call “organizational expectations for email monitoring,” or  OEEM. They wagered that the “competing demands of work and nonwork lives present a pervasive resource allocation dilemma for employees, which trigger feelings of anxiety and negatively impacts personal well-being and relationship quality.”

So the team asked working people across different fields (technology, healthcare, government) how much time them spent dealing with emails after work ours, and how much pressure they felt from higher-ups to check work email after hours: For instance, participants rated statements like, “People who influence my behavior at work think that I should monitor electronic communications away from work.” The team also measured how tense, nervous, and anxious the participants reported feeling, as well as their self-reported relationship quality and their physical health.

The results are largely what you’d expect, and what the authors predicted: People who felt simply the expectation of having to answer work emails during non-work hours were more anxious, and reported more relationship stress and poorer health. As the team writes, the “omnipresent specter of organizational expectations” affect people on many levels, and not for the better.

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Ramesh Ranjan

A Business Consultant, Executive Coach, Visiting Professor, Content Manager & Editor. Ex IIM NASSCOM LRC, ex VP NHRD Bangalore Chapter, ex VP-HR@Schneider Electric, Head HR@ APC, Caltex,Co Systems, Natural Remedies.

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