Out of hours email? Non!
There’s a time and a place for everything: a time for work and a time for play – and there’s a time for putting one’s family first.
The French have passed a law that forbids employees checking their work emails at weekends. This is a sensible move.
Companies who expect their employees to check their emails outside working hours are not only getting free overtime but are also responsible for creating extra stress and exhaustion which can adversely effect family life.
The results of a new study carried out by Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, Virginia Tech and Colorado State University, suggests increasing numbers of workers are experiencing burnout because of their inability to disconnect from the office. Being unable to unwind and forced to stay alert and switched-on is now recognised as damaging to both mental and physical health.
Using data collected from 297 working adults, researchers looked at the role of organisational expectation and its connection to out of hours emailing and stress.
The researchers found that out of hours emailing causes levels of stress comparable to having a high workload, being in conflict at work, a poor working environment and deadline pressure.
In effect, employers are effectively no better than ‘energy thieves’ (my words, not theirs.)
Other studies have shown that employees must be able to detach both mentally and physically from work to recover enough to be ready and fresh for the next day. With this in mind, it might be that companies who expect employees to be chained to the office via the Internet also risk a fall in productivity. Unfortunately, the expectation that employees should be permanently on call seems to be thought of now as normal.
Everyone now has twenty-four hour access to email and the Internet, but it seems that technologies designed to help employees are actually doing more harm than good.
So now there’s a new buzzword – ‘anticipatory stress’ – regardless of whether or not employees actually read or answer emails, being permanently on call leaves them unable to detach and thus unnecessarily stressed. The effect on workers’ ability to give their families, especially children the time and attention they deserve is bound to be eroded. This is unfair and so I will say, via email on Monday, “Vive la France!”
An article published in the journal Frontiers in Human Science, by BioBeats CEO David Plans, said that taking work home is ‘killing people’. Staying connected to the office has been linked to high stress levels and cardiovascular disease.
More than half of City workers suffer high levels of stress as they try to balance office and home life and deal with the habit of always being available to do work.
The study is peer-reviewed and used wrist monitors to measure heart rates in workers, finding that spikes in stress occur when people interrupt their home time for work. Preliminary results from the study of 550 staff from the London offices of the French bank BNP Paribas found that stress levels hit dangerously high levels until 8.30pm and some people’s stress levels remained high until midnight or 1am.
This is the first generation that has had to deal with always being connected, through phones, laptops and tablets.
Scientists are not the only ones interested in the effects of always being hooked up to the office – health insurance companies are also taking a keen interest, and for obvious reasons. Don’t be surprised if premiums start to go up in the near future.