Expecting work emails after hours may harm health

The new study demonstrates that employees do not need to spend actual time on work in their off-hours to experience the harmful effects. Representative image

Are you expected to monitor your work email even after office hours? Such an 'always on' organisational culture can be detrimental to your health and well-being - even if you do not actually engage in working off-hours, a study has found.

The study shows that such expectations result in anxiety, which adversely affects the health of employees and their families.

"The competing demands of work and nonwork lives present a dilemma for employees, which triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives," said William Becker, an associate professor at Virginia Tech in the US.

Previous studies have shown that the stress of increased job demands leads to strain and conflict in family relationships when the employee is unable to fulfil nonwork roles at home - "such as when someone brings work home to finish up."

The new study demonstrates that employees do not need to spend actual time on work in their off-hours to experience the harmful effects.

The mere expectations of availability increase strain for employees and their significant others - even when employees do not engage in actual work during nonwork time.

Unlike work-related demands that deplete employee resources, physical and psychological, by requiring time away from home, "the insidious impact of 'always on' organisational culture is often unaccounted for or disguised as a benefit - increased convenience, for example, or higher autonomy and control over work-life boundaries," Becker 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," he said.

"Employees today must navigate more complex boundaries between work and family than ever before," said Becker.

"Employer expectations during nonwork hours appear to increase this burden, as employees feel an obligation to shift roles throughout their nonwork time," he said.

"Efforts to manage these expectations are more important than ever, given our findings that employees' families are also affected by these expectations," he added.

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Expecting work emails after hours may harm health

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