Checking Email After Work Leads to Stress and Anxiety, Study Finds

Being able to stay connected via our smartphones wherever we go certainly has its perks, but it definitely makes work-life balance a lot harder for some of us. In fact, it’s even downright impossible for those who simply can’t bring themselves to detach from their email notifications after work and on their days off — or if they’re simply expected by their employers to stay connected 24/7.

According to new research, constantly being connected and expected to answer emails after quitting time is shown to be associated with more detrimental effects on mental and emotional health than we might think. For the study, 385 employees who worked in professional fields like finance, technology and healthcare filled out surveys where they were asked to provide information related to how much time they spent on email outside of work, their ability/inability to detach from email during after-hours, their level of emotional exhaustion and their thoughts and experiences with work-life balance.

After analyzing the employee data to examine the expectation of emailing after-hours, the researchers concluded that it led to stress and burnout, contributed to decreased productivity and negatively impacted wellbeing. Interestingly, the amount of time that employees spent on email after work wasn’t the main cause of emotional exhaustion.

The real problem was the mere expectation to be available by email all the time, causing employees to feel stressed and anxious from remaining in a prolonged, never-ending state of uncertainty. Employees who are expected to stay connected to email don’t get the necessary time they need to relax and recover from the busy nature of work, which isn’t just bad for employee wellbeing, but also for the employer itself. As the researchers found, the expectation also drains employee resources that are needed to be productive while actually at work.

Given the fact that using technology to communicate at work has become so common and universal in today’s age, remaining aware of how it impacts our mental and emotional states has become more important than ever in the workplace. France has been long pushing to pass labor laws that make it illegal for companies to maintain a work culture that cultivates the expectation to answer emails after working hours. Perhaps we could see this extended to other countries and regions around the world in the future.

This isn’t the first study that has highlighted our need to detach from email after work hours. Research from the University of California, Irvine found that when a group of 13 employees were cut off from email for five days, their level of multitasking decreased and their task focus improved. Data from heart rate monitors also showed that stress levels were lower when employees went without email.

Another previous study that involved 124 participants who were restricted from accessing email no more than three times a day showed significantly lower stress levels compared to when they were given the freedom to access email for an unlimited amount of time throughout the day, whenever they wanted. These findings not only reveal the importance of detaching from email after work hours, but also the benefits of scheduling specific time slots to take care of email that are separate from performing other tasks.

While everyone may physically leave work when it’s time to go home, that’s not the case for everybody these days on a psychological level, thanks to email. Employers who can’t completely ban email communication after hours would do their employees (and themselves) a favor by at least implementing rotating email schedules during after-hours.

Despite the ever changing nature of the web, email is still a leading form of communication — especially when it comes to business. The Radicati Group has estimated that 1.779 million people will be accessing email via mobile devices by 2017, suggesting that the need to properly manage email as it relates to healthy work-life balance will only become more crucial as we head into the future.

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54 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R1 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R1 months ago

ty

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John B
John B1 years ago

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Helen K.
Helen K2 years ago

Yes, this doesn't surprise me. We have to stop being slaves to our telephones! I worked for the telephone company once and I was waiting in line with an older, very experienced phone company employee. I was very annoyed when it was our turn to be served when the clerk's telephone rang and she answered it! I spoke up and tried unsuccessfully to get her to hang up and serve us since we had been waiting a long time. My friend told me to be quiet that it was not in our interests (as people being paid by the phone company) to get between the ring of a phone and the unconditional response of the called party. " Don't stop that response" he said. My stomach churned, but my mind exploded. I now "sound code" my phone so that I do not answer more than half of my calls since they are usually robo/somebody-trying-to-sell-something calls. I have different music for different people or geographic areas. I have nice music for nice pepole and nasty music for nasty people. If you come up as generic then you are out of luck.
Now it is worse, people are irradiating their brains for hours on end to talk on the phone. Wake up people! Stop doing it. If your job demands it, get another job.

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

I guess sometimes you don't have a choice.... So glad I don't have to! I think one must separate personal life and work life, if you can

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Beverly S.
Beverly S2 years ago

These ads cause me stress and anxiety. Are they paying Care2?
(I can't post a comment in color.)

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA S2 years ago

noted,thank you

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