Checking Your Email After Work Is Pretty Bad For You, Study Says
We're constantly checking our emails, both during and after work. It would feel strange — almost rude — not to look when that notification pops up. What if it's my boss? What if it's an emergency? The idea of ignoring a slew of messages seems daunting when you could just respond to them as soon as they come in.
But is our habit of constantly responding to email healthy? New research published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology suggests not.
Larissa Barber, the lead author of the study, calls it "telepressure." It's the compulsion to answer every work-related email the moment you receive it, no matter what time of day. By doing this, Barber says, you're exposing yourself to workplace stressors when you're at home.
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This continuous work connection has very real health effects, the study found: employees who reported more telepressure also reported worse sleep, higher levels of burnout and more health-related absences from work. "When people don't have this recovery time, it switches them into an exhaustion state, so they go to work the next day not being engaged," Barber says.
Barber also found that telepressure is more dependent on observing our colleagues' behavior than it is on personality. It's not just the go-getters who experience it; employees model themselves after those in our work environment.
It's one thing to be aware of telepressure, and another beast altogether to stop feeling it. Barber suggests meeting with your employer or employees about email expectations to avoid telepressure from starting in the first place. Then, she says, you can alter the conversational nature of your emails. Instead of emailing someone about what he or she is doing after work, ask in person, and reserve the longer-winded, work-related messages for email. If you don't send personal emails, you'll be less likely to take a longer response time personally.
Our work may get done in a more timely manner because of telepressure, but let's face it: It's not healthy. Try to fight both the urge to check your email when you're not at work and the urge to pressure others to get back to you as soon as possible. Leave work at work, and home will be more of a safe haven from stress.